FEMA denies North Carolina’s application for individual assistance for Dorian victims

One of the dozens of homes that have been demolished in Ocracoke after being flooded out by Hurricane Dorian. [Connie Leinbach/Ocracoke Observer]

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has denied North Carolina’s application to provide assistance to individuals in Dare, Hyde, Carteret and New Hanover counties who suffered losses due to Hurricane Dorian.

“Based on our review of all the information available, including the results of joint federal, state, and local government Preliminary Damage Assessments it has been determined that the impact to individuals and households from this event is not of such severity and magnitude to warrant the designation of Individual Assistance,” said Jeff Byard, Associate Administrator for FEMA’s Office of Response and Recovery in a letter to Gov. Roy Cooper sent Tuesday.

Sixth District state Rep. Bobby Hanig of Currituck County confirmed to OBX Today on Wednesday morning that the request had been denied. A copy of the letter began circulating on Facebook late Tuesday.

“I will be working at the state level to find funding to help the folks that are in need,” Hanig said.

The letter said Gov. Cooper has 30 days to appeal the ruling with FEMA’s Region IV office in Atlanta.

“This is disappointing news for families who lost everything in Hurricane Dorian and still need help,” said Ford Porter, spokesperson for Gov. Cooper.

“The Governor will continue to work with our federal and state partners and North Carolina’s congressional delegation to determine a path forward to deliver assistance to those who need it,” said Porter.

Last Friday, FEMA approved providing reimbursement to local governments for the costs of debris removal, life-saving emergency protective measures and the repair, replacement or restoration of disaster-damaged publicly owned facilities. Certain private non-profit organizations can also be eligible for reimbursement.

Ocracoke’s county commissioner, Tom Pahl, told The Ocracoke Observer he was disappointed by the decision noting the impact Dorian has had on individuals on the island. “It hurts the most to be denied by the federal government the kind of assistance other people have received in similar circumstances,” he said.

Pahl said a meeting was scheduled Wednesday at 1 p.m. with Hyde County officials and others, including the governor’s office, to see what the next steps will be. The meeting agenda will include discussing an appeal and what state resources would come into play in the absence of the individual assistance by the federal government. “It’s not like we haven’t had these conversations before,” he said. “But with the official denial, we want to have clear commitments and answers.”

Word spread on social media this morning that ABC News wanted to do a remote interview on how the community was reacting to the Individual Assistance denial. Approximately 100 people showed up. Islanders Stephanie O’Neal, Jason Wells and Tom Pahl expressed their dismay via cell phone and a videographer, The Ocracoke Observer reported.

Third District Congressman Greg Murphy provided a statement this morning via his press secretary.

“I am disappointed to hear that Individual Assistance for Hurricane Dorian has been denied under the requirements set forth in the 1987 Stafford Act. That said we are committed to working with the Governor to explore all avenues, either appeal or seeking a state disaster declaration, that will provide relief to those in need as quickly as possible.”

Some local officials expressed concerns early on that FEMA’s damage threshold may not be met from the storm that made landfall on Hatteras Island on September 6.

Byard was nominated by President Trump to become the new administrator of FEMA, but CNN reported last month that the White House was going to withdraw his nomination over a personal issue.

The FEMA administrator position, which must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, has been vacant since Brock Long resigned in March.

Letter from FEMA to Gov. Cooper.

This is a developing story, stay with OBX Today for more details.

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Sam Walker is news director for OBXToday.com, Beach 104, 99.1 The Sound, Big 94.5 and News Talk 92.3 WZPR. Reach him at [email protected]