October’s 1,000-year floods have caused an unprecedented $12 billion in damage to our state and left thousands with destroyed or damaged homes, as well as significant damage to businesses. We haven’t witnessed anything similar since the devastation caused by Hurricane Hugo in 1989.
Some 96,829 South Carolinians have registered for FEMA disaster aid, with $74 million approved. However, the need for relief continues well beyond the initial weeks and months after a storm strikes, and a large number of flood victims report that while the aid from FEMA was helpful, it wasn’t enough to cover the cost for damage sustained. Many South Carolinians are still displaced from their homes, or living in severely damaged homes, even after receiving federal aid.
The flood wreaked havoc on 24 counties. The floodwaters did not discriminate, and neither should the state of South Carolina when it comes to recovery relief efforts.
The recovery process will be long, painful and expensive for many. Leaders in Columbia have a responsibility to ensure that impacted communities get back on their feet and are able to make a full recovery.
Some Democrats disagree with Haley on flood relief
I have filed a bill to help families and individuals fully recover from the floods. It allocates $320 million in surplus funds to aid people living in counties impacted by the storm.
To be clear, the state has surplus revenue sitting in a bank account right now that we can use to help flood victims immediately.
State law (Section 25-1-440(a)(8)(iii)) gives the governor the authority to make financial grants of up to $16,000 per family or individual, to assist with disaster-related needs once the president declares a community a disaster area. On Oct. 5, President Obama signed a disaster declaration for the entire state.
Put simply, the governor has the authority to make financial grants to flood victims. My bill gives her the money to send that aid now. In addition, it speeds up the recovery process, and helps plug gaps not covered by the federal aid and insurance coverage that victims have received.
Thousands in South Carolina applied for federal disaster aid just before deadline
Thus far, Gov. Haley has refused to spend any state surplus money to help families and individuals recover. Instead she has decided to rely solely on charities and federal relief. While I applaud the efforts of the private sector, the private sector alone cannot fully address the billions of dollars in damage we face. Furthermore, the flood stands to impact charitable contributions, because those who traditionally give now have to focus on their homes or businesses. How can state leaders ignore the thousands of people in our state whom FEMA could not help enough?
If the General Assembly decides to use state money to help flood victims through a different process, those funds would not be available until the new fiscal year that begins July 1. That is entirely too long for flood victims to wait. My bill provides immediate help, using funds already available in existing budget appropriations.
Call Gov. Haley’s office at (803)734-2100 and urge her to support H.4569 and to do her duty to provide immediate recovery aid that is sorely needed by many across the state. The storm is not over for thousands of South Carolinians. It is time we tell the governor to send help now.
Mr. Rutherford is a Columbia attorney and House Democratic leader; contact him at Trutherford.firstname.lastname@example.org..