Flooded road in Norwood
This road through Norwood in Stanly County is one of many across the state that has been rendered impassable by flood waters. Courtesy of Louise McCall

With floodwaters receding and the cleanup from Hurricane Florence well underway across North Carolina, residents in many parts of the state are facing substantial long-term financial challenges as a result.

But, depending on what county they live in, they may not qualify for some of the government aid programs that are available.

That’s because, as of Monday morning, only 28 of North Carolina’s 100 counties had received the presidential disaster declarations through FEMA that allow for individual assistance. While more counties may be added – Greene County joined the list on Friday – until they are, residents of non-declared counties can’t qualify for these relief programs.

One such program is the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program which the U.S. Department of Agriculture operates to help residents get access to food in affected areas. The federal statute that created the program prevents it from providing aid in counties that aren’t declared disaster areas, explained Cobey Culton, a spokesperson for the state Department of Health and Human Services, which is administering the program at the state level.

“If additional counties are designated as Individual Assistance, DHHS would request approval from USDA to operate D-SNAP in those counties as well,” Culton said.

Another program affected by the limit on counties with declaration is the U.S. Department of Labor’s grant to $18.5 million in funds for temporary recovery jobs by hiring workers from the hardest hit areas. The state Department of Commerce will administer the program through its Division of Workforce Solutions, but it remains subject to the federal limitations.

According to Gov. Roy Cooper’s office, this program provided jobs for more than 660 North Carolinians following Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

The 28 counties that had received declarations for these aid programs as of Monday morning were Beaufort, Bladen, Brunswick, Carteret, Columbus, Craven, Cumberland, Duplin, Greene, Harnett, Hoke, Hyde, Johnston, Lee, Lenoir, Jones, Moore, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico, Pender, Pitt, Richmond, Robeson, Sampson, Scotland, Wayne and Wilson.

Numerous other counties experienced problems, including flooding forcing people from their homes, concerns about dams that forced additional evacuations, closed roads, damaged buildings and inundated crops and reliance on temporary shelters. It’s possible that some of those counties will receive disaster declarations later.

How to get aid

Residents of the counties that have presidential declared disasters allowing for individual aid may seek food assistance through D-SNAP by applying in person before Saturday, Oct. 6, at their county’s Department of Social Security Office.

However, in areas from which residents evacuated to outside their counties, residents do have other options.

“While residents are encouraged to apply in the county they live in, they are able to apply in person in any of the (declared) counties, regardless of which of the (declared) counties they reside (in),” DHHS spokesman Culton said.

“Additionally people who may have a disability or are physically unable to go in person can send an authorized representative in their place.”

Residents wishing to apply for recovery jobs should visit the NCWorks Career Center in their county. For that program, those who have evacuated cannot apply outside their home county.

‘Folks who want to participate in the temporary employment program related to Hurricane Florence would need to wait until they return home,” said Andrew Beal, a spokesman for the Department of Commerce. “The jobs that people would be doing would be in their own communities.”

Beal said this requirement is a “practical consideration” for the program so that it can match people to jobs where they live, and doesn’t apply to other NCWorks job programs. If someone has evacuated to another part of the state and wants to apply for any other type of program through NC Works, that person could go to a career center where they are temporarily living, he said.

For more information

D-SNAP in North Carolina: Call 866-719-0141 or visit ncdhhs.gov

Locations of NCWorks Career Centers: ncworks.gov

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