The Dare County Board of Commissioners approved during its regular meeting last week a $1 million grant from the state to help assuage the financial strain caused by last year’s Hurricane Dorian.
Like many counties and local and tribal governments, Dare County has been facing budget impacts caused by hurricane damage and applied for the state-funded grant through the North Carolina Office of Recovery and Resiliency, or NCORR, program, State Grants for Financially Distressed Local and Tribal Governments.
Governments can apply for grants of up to $1 million as short-term assistance to pay for everyday operating expenses or provide additional support for disaster recovery. Information on the grant application process is on NCORR’s ReBuild.NC.gov website.
“Our communities are committed to rebuilding smarter and stronger and these funds will help foster new partnerships and make North Carolina more resilient against future storms,” said Gov. Roy Cooper in a release.
Communities are also able to apply for zero-interest loans through NCORR, though the 2020 loan application period has closed. Another application period will be announced in the coming months for the revolving loans of up to $2 million. These loans are to help with disaster-related expenses while local governments wait for reimbursement from federal disaster response, recovery and resiliency programs such as those from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. If approved, the loan principal must be repaid upon receiving federal reimbursements.
Clawson said that he identified what items the county needed that met the criteria outlined in the application.
“One of them was a vehicle for emergency management, and another one was if you had Hurricane Dorian costs that had not been reimbursed by FEMA or the state, and we have both of those. And then the rest, the grant application allowed you to use non-hurricane related — just straight up operating expenditures — you can use debt service, you can do payroll, I picked payroll,” he said.
The county, which applied for the grant Sept. 9, will use $55,000 for an emergency management vehicle that has requested but not included in the FY2021 budget, $166,456 for debris costs from Hurricane Dorian that was ineligible for reimbursement, per FEMA, and $778,544 for economic relief to general fund, to be used for general payroll obligations, according to the county.
County commissioners approved a budget amendment for the grant and the memorandum of agreement during the meeting.
More than 40 local and tribal governments have been awarded about $50 million in grants and loans to help with operating costs and recovery expenses since the NCORR program was launched last year.
“Hurricanes damage not only individual homes, but also buildings and infrastructure that are critical for community stability and welfare,” said NCORR Chief Operating Officer Laura Hogshead in a statement. “Our office is committed to building local government partnerships that will support long-term disaster recovery throughout the state.”
Carteret County also received $1 million in grant money earlier this month from NCORR because of the impact recent major storms had on the budget.
“As a result of the hurricanes’ negative economic impact on the County’s operating budget, the award is a pivotal resource for our County. FEMA reimburses local government for direct cost incurred from disasters. It does not reimburse local governments for lost revenues, and these revenues pay operating expenses and debt service obligations.” said Dee Meshaw, Carteret County assistant manager, in a statement from the county. “By alleviating the need to use general fund money to pay for these debts, it will allow the County to be more resilient against future storms and continue to financially support future projects and improvements for our community.”
Pollocksville is using the $500,000 grant awarded in 2019 funds to reduce debt service, retain the services of a full-time employee to help with disaster mitigation and resiliency, and to cover additional accounting expenses and financial services, according to NCORR.
“The grant has been a financial lifesaver for our town,” said Mayor James V. Bender Jr.
In late 2018, Cooper established NCORR in the Department of Public Safety after the state experienced two devastating hurricanes in as many years.
The North Carolina General Assembly established the state recovery grants for county governments, incorporated municipalities and tribal governments to provide assistance under the Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Dorian Presidential Disaster declarations, according to the state.
NCORR announced in January that more funding was available through the grant and loan program established in 2019.
Cooper signed legislation Nov. 18, 2019, directing $10 million for NCORR to disperse as zero-interest loans that governments can use for recovery-related expenses while waiting for reimbursement from various federal programs. Additionally, $5 million was set aside for local government grants to help communities impacted by Hurricane Dorian. Those funds supplement $9 million in grant and loan funds for local governments that Cooper signed into law on September 2019.
The agency during the first round of funding in 2019 awarded more than $22.4 million in grants and loans to 22 local governments struggling financially because of costs related to Hurricane Florence.
The grants can be used to cover operating budget expenses not related to a disaster, such as payroll and payments to vendors for goods and services not related to disaster response and recovery, where nonpayment would result in a negative financial outcome. The grants can also be used for disaster response and recovery expenses denied for federal reimbursement, disaster-related repairs to facilities and infrastructure denied for federal reimbursement and debt service payments.
The following are the NCORR grants and loans to date for Coastal Area Management Act, or CAMA, counties and towns and reason for funding:
- Cape Carteret: $500,000 for administrative expenditures such as payroll and debt service payments due to disaster recovery.
- River Bend: $300,000 for inspection specialist and a public works technician, vehicle used for the inspections and enforcement of building ordinances.
- Atlantic Beach: $500,000 for debt service payments, part-time building inspector.
- Emerald Isle: $370,000 for debt service payments.
- Navassa: $375,000 for stabilization of water and sewer fund.
- North Topsail Beach: $250,000 for debt service payment to USDA.
- River Bend: $1 million for FEMA projects for debris removal, repairs to building, emergency response.
- Beaufort: $1 million for FEMA projects for debris removal, emergency response, cemetery clean up, additional payroll.
- Boiling Spring Lakes for $2 million for FEMA infrastructure projects.
- Jones County $2 million for FEMA Projects for debris removal, emergency response, utilities repair, inmate housing.
- Pamlico County: $2 million for FEMA projects for debris removal.
- Emerald Isle: $2 million for FEMA projects for debris removal.
Hurricane Florence Grants
- Belhaven: $97,500 for part-time building inspector.
- Oriental: $86,593 for Public Works position for three years, vehicle for disaster recovery support.
- Vandemere: $80,167 for bobcat excavator.
- Navassa: $500,000 for payroll obligation, debt services obligations, vendor payments.
- New Bern: $328,500 for resiliency consultant, truck.
- Morehead City Fire-EMS: $174,000 for equipment for water search rescue team.
- River Bend: $363,000 for debt services, payroll obligations.
Hurricane Dorian Grants 2020
- Hyde County: $500,000 for administrative functions to assist with disaster recovery, affordable housing study and $2,214,000 for budget shortfalls, individual assistance costs, housing recovering contractors.
- Dare County: $1 million for disaster expenses denied by FEMA, general payroll obligations, emergency operations vehicle.
- Carteret County $1 million for debt service obligations.
- Topsail Beach: $2 million for FEMA beach nourishment fund project.
- Hyde County: $2 million for FEMA debris removal from Hurricane Dorian.
- Pollocksville: $1.66 million for FEMA project for elevation of main sewer pumping station and also a project to relocate town hall/train station.