Disaster Recovery Oversight Committee
A new bipartisan legislative subcommittee tasked with overseeing delays associated with disaster relief held its first hearing last week. The date was symbolic: the four-year anniversary of when Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina. Since both Florence and Hurricane Matthew devastated communities and displaced thousands of homeowners in southeastern North Carolina, the state agency responsible for coordinating relief efforts, the North Carolina Office of Recovery and Resiliency (NCORR) has been criticized for taking so many years to get people back into their homes.
The General Assembly created NCORR in 2018 and housed the agency within the Department of Public Safety (DPS). The agency was created, in part, to distribute hundreds of millions of dollars in federal recovery funds. Federal guidelines require the funds to be distributed by mid-2026, but agency leaders claimed last week that only 60%, or $231 million, of funds have been committed so far. The funds are meant to provide temporary housing for displaced residents and compensate contractors for rehabilitating or reconstructing housing units. Of the nearly 4,200 Homeowner Recovery Applicants that have been filed since Hurricane Matthew hit in 2016, only 800 projects have been completed. Last week, legislators spent nearly six hours questioning both agency leaders and displaced homeowners to learn about the reasons for the delay.
Laura Hogshead, who is the director of NCORR, told lawmakers those additional applicants are waiting to find contractors willing to take on the government-funded projects. Displaced homeowners testified to the committee that they had been living in rental properties or motels since submitting their application, with some having lived in these temporary conditions for over two years. Committee co-chair Rep. John Bell (R-Wayne), whose district was severely impacted by the storms, told Hogshead that he and others on the committee heard frequently from contractors who refused to do more work for the state because they had not yet been paid for work completed several years prior due to missing paperwork.
Lawmakers expressed disappointment in the office’s mismanagement. Sen. Brent Jackson (R-Sampson) who also co-chairs the committee, told Hogshead, “We’re in a hole so deep that, quite frankly, I don’t think you or your staff can dig yourself out of it…You would need a 600% increase in output to meet the  deadline, right?” Hogshead responded with a “yes.” Hogshead admitted the efforts to streamline recovery programming were off course, and she took responsibility, pledging to committee members that she would “try [her] best” to get the remaining individuals in temporary housing back into their homes by Christmas.
The subcommittee will meet again on December 14 to receive a status update from NCORR.