FEMA rules mean no help for woman flooded by Matthew, Florence

Posted November 15, 2018 7:23 p.m. EST
Updated November 18, 2018 1:03 p.m. EST

— Staris Morgan is tired of the slow drip of bureaucracy. "I am so, so tired," she said.

Over the course of two years, two households and two hurricanes, she is still waiting for aid, and trapped in a bureaucratic web.

In 2016, Matthew flooded the house where she raised her family.

"I couldn't stay here," she said.

She had home and flood insurance, but not enough to replace all of her belongings and make the necessary repairs. The City of Goldsboro required that Morgan elevate her home because it's in a high-risk flood area.

She couldn't afford that, but was not eligible for a buyout.

For awhile, she got help with rental assistance from FEMA. When that money ran out, she continued to rent an apartment while still paying the mortgage on her condemned home.

This fall, when Hurricane Florence hit and did further damage to the home, Morgan started the FEMA application process all over again.

The response brought yet another shock.

"I was told I was not eligible because I didn't live here for the past year," she said.

Morgan's double dilemma was a shock to Gov. Roy Cooper, too.

"That has to be so frustrating for her, maddening in fact," he said.

While pushing for more hurricane aid in Washington, D.C., the governor told us it's time to ease FEMA's hard and fast funding rules.

"More flexibility to be able to help someone like her is what we are looking for. We're also trying to make sure the state legislature steps up and fills in some of the gaps," Cooper said.

Morgan finds herself stuck in that gap, buried in relief paperwork.

"I've formed and formed, and I feel like I'm formed out. I filled out forms. I've called. I've cried," she said. "It doesn't make sense to me."

Morgan now hopes to win approval for a Community Development Block Grant to buy her damaged property.