BLADEN COUNTY, NC (WECT) - The Bladen County Board of Commissioners and other county leaders held a special meeting Monday to discuss Hurricane Florence recovery efforts.
Community members in attendance asked questions regarding FEMA aid, and many were visibly overwhelmed.
To date, 2,750 people in Bladen County have applied for FEMA assistance. The county is also waiting on approval for certain aid programs.
“From the top of FEMA to our people on the ground here, we have been rated as disastrous as any county in the state," said Ray Britt, chairman of the Bladen County Board of Commissioners. “But I think the trickle down effect has not gotten to the local people and I don’t know where the breakdown is.”
Bladen has not been approved for FEMA’s Transitional Sheltering Assistance Program, or Direct Housing Program. These programs provide mobile housing trailers and other aid to those displaced by disasters.
“I’ve talked directly to the White House. I’ve talked to the Chief of Staff. I’ve talked to Brittany Carter, Associate Director for the Assistant to the President, and they have assured me we are deemed as bad as you can get, but some of the services that come with being in that category we are not receiving because some of the people on the ground here are saying we don’t qualify for that,” Britt said.
Britt said he believes there is a disconnect between top FEMA officials and workers on the ground, but he vowed to keep working until he gets answers for Bladen County residents.
“I will go back again tomorrow, back like I did today, back to the White House until we get to the bottom for clarification with the FEMA people," Britt said. "I’m upset for our people in our county because I don’t have the answers and they deserve answers.”
After nearly a month of recovery efforts, many in Bladen County have received little or no federal aid. Britt said he and other commissioners feel frustrated they can not do more for those in need.
“They look to us commissioners for the answers and my job is to keep turning every page I can until I get the answers everybody needs so we can all get on the same page," Britt said. "That’s my obligation; that’s my commitment.”
Bradly Kinlaw, director of Bladen County Emergency Management, gave a report during the meeting updating leaders on damage assessment, FEMA, and debris pickup.
To date, Kinlaw reported 1,156 tons of vegetative debris have been picked up in addition to 302 tons of brown goods and 178 tons of construction materials.
He also reported 1,002 homes have been assessed to have minor damage, more than 500 with moderate damage, and 153 with major damage. The number of homes with major damage is expected to rise.
Leaders and community members also discussed the Kelly dike and are looking into old records to answer many questions that still remain.
“I have asked it to be looked into by our county attorneys and I assure you I haven’t gotten that answer yet, if it’s somewhere to be found," Britt said. "That’s what I need to know to answer to the people of Kelly.”