Lt. Governor: 'The ball was dropped' on federal hurricane relief

Lt. Governor: 'The ball was dropped' on federal hurricane relief

COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest says officials on Governor Roy Cooper's team dropped the ball getting federal relief funding to victims of Hurricane Matthew.

During a stop in Columbus County not far from Fair Bluff — one of the communities hardest hit by the October 2016 storm — Forest was asked about the delay in the state dispersing federal money designed to help Hurricane Matthew victims. A series of reports by WBTV in Charlotte found the state has also missed two self-imposed deadlines in the effort to help repair and replace hurricane-damaged homes.

"I think that is inexcusable," Forest said. "We've done everything in our power as lieutenant governor to try to make sure we are moving in the right direction. It's out of our hands. It's certainly in the governor's hands and the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Management and all those folks to make sure we do it. But I think the ball was dropped on this one."

According to a release sent this week by House Speaker Tim Moore's office, just one of the 22 counties impacted by the storm has received final approval to begin spending $236 million of federal community development block grants for disaster recovery (CDBG-DRs). Another three counties are expected to complete required paperwork in August, according to the division, and work is just now underway in the remaining 18 counties.

When asked if the delay should result in people in the departments losing their job, Forest stopped short of calling for resignations.

"I don't think it's necessarily that," he said. "I think it's a process issue that is being dealt with right now. I think that is well underway at this point, but it's kind of a day late and a dollar short right now. There's still people out there that need that money and it needs to get to them as quickly as possible."

Forest made two stops in Columbus County on Thursday.

At West Columbus High School, he spoke to the cheerleading squad that won a national championship. He then toured Ricky Benton Racing in Cerro Gordo, talking to members of the team that has fielded cars for the biggest races on the NASCAR circuit in 2018.

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