By Kendall McGee | April 28, 2021 at 12:17 PM EDT – Updated April 28 at 7:31 PM
Congressman David Rouzer (R-NC’s 7th district) introduced the bill last week, which aims to create a new section under the Stafford Act that allows for a simple block grant program for states hit by federally-declared disasters.
Under the current program, survivors often wait years before they see recovery money.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” said Wilmington Area Rebuilding Ministry (WARM) executive director JC Lyle.
Hurricane Florence struck almost three years ago, but the recovery is still ongoing. A WARM crew was out Wednesday putting final touches on a home off Market Street.
“There’s some storm damage in this house that we are working to repair; we fixed the roof and now it’s cleaning up the water damage from inside the home,” added Lyle.
Rouzer says scrapping the Community Block Grant Development Disaster Relief program and creating a block grant program would cut the red tape and allow states to meet victims’ needs more efficiently.
“This bill would allow them to decide where to spend disaster dollars and create a program structure to get the money out the door in a timely manner — all while maintaining oversight of taxpayer dollars. It would allow states to focus on their unique recovery needs, not on what HUD decides their recovery needs are. In the critical months after a devastating natural disaster, the needs of survivors should be the highest priority,” a news release from Rouzer’s office stated.
States would be awarded half of the total grant funds immediately after Congress appropriates them, allowing recovery money to start flowing as quickly as possible.
States would be responsible for the direction of these funds and they would be required to submit an audit certifying none of the money was misused before the second half of the grant money would be released.
Such drastic changes will inevitably take time to come to fruition. In addition to the legislation, work will have to be done to alleviate other hold-ups with shortages of contractors and volunteer workers.
Recovery workers like Lyle though are grateful lawmakers haven’t forgotten victims of disasters like Hurricane Florence, and others still to come.
“It takes a whole community continuing on together, working our way — fighting our way — back to wholeness,” said Lyle.
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