Town of Nichols in need of a miracle after disastrous flood
South Carolina will get more than $65 million in federal aid to help pay for long-term recovery from Hurricane Matthew.
The state plans to use the money to rebuild and replace housing damaged by the storm that churned along the S.C. coast Oct. 8.
Officials from the reeling Pee Dee town of Nichols say the money could be a godsend.
The $65 million from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department is part of a $2.3 billion aid package for states hit hard by disasters in 2016.
It is one of the largest sources of long-term federal aid South Carolina can expect after Hurricane Matthew.
“Our team worked quickly to make sure these funds reach the communities most impacted by a major disaster this year,” HUD Secretary Julian Castro said in a statement. “We’ll do everything we can to support the people and places still struggling to rebuild.”
Earlier this spring, South Carolina was given nearly $157 million through the same housing program to pay for recovery from the historic October 2015 storm and subsequent flooding.
Money from that grant will help the state’s poorest storm victims by paying to repair houses, replace mobile homes and offer temporary rental assistance, state officials have said.
S.C. Disaster Recovery Office spokeswoman Beth Parks said the state expects to use the $65 million similarly to help Hurricane Matthew victims.
‘A town worth saving’
Just one of Nichols’ 22 businesses has reopened fully after the storm, which left 235 of the town’s 261 homes “severely damaged” or in worse condition.
The long-term aid, still a long way from arriving, could help some of Nichols’ 150 still-displaced families return home, town clerk Sandee Rogers said.
“It’s going to take a couple of years for us to get back on our feet,” Rogers said. “These disasters come and go, and people forget about them. ... We’re a town worth saving.”
A HUD spokesman said the agency would publish instructions for how and where the grant money must be used “very soon,” though he would not give a firm date.
The state then must write a preliminary action plan explaining how it will use the money, set aside time for public feedback and, then, send the plan to HUD for final approval. It can take months, or sometimes more than a year, before the money finally is spent.
HUD spokesman Brian Sullivan said the $2.3 billion in aid was divvied up based on data on unmet housing needs after each disaster. That data was not available on Thursday, he said.
Matthew, which briefly made landfall in South Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane, caused nearly $341 million in damage to public property, according to estimates from Gov. Nikki Haley’s office last month.
At the time, the governor’s office could not yet estimate the storm’s damage to private households or businesses.
However, more than 47,000 S.C. residents applied for Federal Emergency Management Agency aid after Hurricane Matthew. A fraction of those received help, receiving roughly $35.7 million in housing and other aid.
Nearly 1,400 residents were approved for low-interest federal disaster recovery loans worth $46.2 million.
Flood-battered Louisiana received the lion’s share of the HUD disaster aid this year, getting nearly $1.7 billion. Five other states got at least $58 million each.
North Carolina, waterlogged for weeks after Hurricane Matthew, will get close to $198.6 million.
Aid for 2016 disasters
Where disaster aid, announced Thursday by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department, will go:
North Carolina: $198,553,000
West Virginia: $104,280,000
South Carolina: $65,305,000
SOURCE: U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department