PENDER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - Mike Moser isn’t going to let a governmental decision get in the way of a promise he made after Hurricane Florence hit southeastern North Carolina.
“We are going forward and will fulfill our commitment to the people of Pender County,” said Moser, head of the Pender division of the N.C Baptist Men Disaster Relief Ministry.
Moser made that statement after being told last weekend the FEMA-run sheltering and temporary essential power (STEP) program would come to an end on April 2.
STEP is funded by the state, and FEMA provides temporary, partial repairs at no cost to homeowners so they can get back into their homes while long-term repairs continue.
“The Baptist Men on a Mission and Methodist men are the only two faith-based groups that the government has contracted with to work on STEP homes,” Moser said.
Since Florence hit six months ago, the state has paid Moser’s disaster relief teams to repair homes in Pender County so residents can get back in their homes and live safely with minimal provisions. In Pender County, N.C. Baptist Relief has completed more than 30 STEP homes.
“The idea is small repairs, just enough, so you get a sink, small cabinet, a hot plate, microwave and small refrigerator,” said Moser.
Crews also put down flooring and put up walls to make homes inhabitable while residents plan for the future.
Moser says each job has a cap of $17,000 set by FEMA. He wants residents of Pender County to rest assured that if and when STEP ends, the Baptist Men will still help victims of the storm.
“We have stockpiled our warehouse to prepare for this," Moser said. "We have volunteers ready, we have materials and we have funding to do all this.”
Moser says his teams have learned a lot from STEP but says as they continue their repairs, they will have more flexibility without having to adhere to governmental guidelines.
“I understand the intent of the program but I’d like to give people a stove, not a hot plate, a large refrigerator," Moser said. "We want to have more flexibility, and this will now get us outside of the intent of temporary repairs, and we can now do more of what we would have wanted to originally.”
Moser said his teams have about a dozen STEP homes they are trying to repair before the April 2 deadline.
“We have heard, and it is my understanding, that the state may be hiring independent contractors to come in and finish many homes,” he said.
Bridget Munger, communications director for the N.C. Office of Recovery and Resiliency, said, “State Emergency Management Director (Mike) Sprayberry and his team are determining whether or not we need to ask FEMA for an extension so the work can continue beyond that date. We’re also considering the possibility of continuing the program after April 2 using state funds if necessary.”
Munger went on to say as of Thursday, repairs have been completed at 699 homes through the STEP program with repairs underway at 1,530 more. Work orders are assigned for an additional 2,024 homes.
The goal is to have all STEP repairs completed by April 2, and work is being done by volunteer groups and professional contractors, depending on the level of damage to the home.