Wednesday, February 1, 2023

FEMA approves $9.5 million for New Hanover County reimbursement from Florence debris pickup

The county spent much more on recovering from the storm and money will be paid out to the state, then distributed to the county.

Workers remove debris from neighborhoods near Middle Sound Loop Road after a tornado hit on May 5. Courtesy of New Hanover County.

WILMINGTON — Nearly six months after Hurricane Florence, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is approving reimbursement of funds for debris removal in the county to the tune of $9.5 million.

In October of 2018, the county appropriated more than $20 million from the general fund to help pay for expected expenditures following the storm.

But the county had underestimated the amount of debris that would be picked up.

Initially, the county had banked on picking up around 800,000-cubic-yards of storm debris, instead, that number was more than 1.3-million-cubic-yards, according to New Hanover County. The process took four months to complete and there was enough debris to fill 13,000 tractor trailers.

“More than 1 million cubic yards of vegetation and other debris was collected from public rights of way throughout the county. The vegetative debris was chipped into mulch, and all debris was ultimately disposed of at the New Hanover County Landfill in Wilmington,” according to a press release from FEMA.

In December the County Commissioners approved an additional $12.2 million to cover the estimated expenses

But the money that is being reimbursed is not going directly to the county, instead, the state will take the money and then distribute the funds to the county.

“FEMA’s Public Assistance is a cost-sharing program which reimburses applicants no less than 75 percent of eligible costs and the remaining 25 percent is covered by the state of North Carolina. FEMA’s share for this project was $7.1 million. The federal portion is paid directly to the state, which disburses funds to the agencies, local governments and to certain private nonprofit organizations that incurred costs,” according to the release.

New Hanover County spokesperson Jessica Loeper said the county expects FEMA to reimburse it for 75 percent of costs accrued from the storm, including damages to buildings and pay for employees, as well as debris costs.

What FEMA does not pay, Loeper said the state should reimburse — meaning the county will only have to cover a minimal amount of the remaining 25 percent.


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