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Easley: Spend Hurricane Relief Money Or Lose It

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Gov. Mike Easley is chasing the Hurricane Floyd flood money trail. He is urging towns and cities to use the hurricane relief funds or they may lose them.

With a big deficit waiting for the state legislature, Gov. Easley said unspent Floyd money may be tempting to lawmakers.

"When you are looking for $800 million and you see $413 million over here that you have appropriated that is not being used, it is very, very easy to get it back," he said.

Towns and cities that lost homes to the flood are making progress with the buyout. However, Easley wants those towns and cities to work faster to repair home sites that suffered other damage. He said towns may have to give up the money if it is not used.

Rocky Mount officials say they know a good plan for unspent hurricane money -- use it for tenants who were flooded out, but opted not to go back home.

"If the people did not go back to those properties after they were restored, those people have been determined ineligible for relocation benefits and that is a tough one because people were traumatized on Sept. 15," said assistant city manager Charles Penny.

The government spends about $150,000 a month operating a trailer park for Hurricane Floyd victims. More than 2,000 families moved into temporary housing after Floyd, most of them into trailers.

Under the program, the state and federal government bought the trailers and paid for upkeep. Tenants only paid the cost of utilities.