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FEMA Buyouts Under Way; State Money Available to Supplement Gaps

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WILSON — The first checks are rolling out forFEMA'sflood buyout program. A Farmville home is the first in the state to be bought through the program.

Some homeowners worry the money they get will not be enough to move. However, millions of dollars are available to fill the gap and help people rebuild their lives.

Johnnie Wells is ready to hear some good news about his house. He wanted to rebuild after Floyd ruined his Wilson neighborhood, but he cannot get a permit. He is selling out instead, and hoping the buyout check will arrive soon.

"You live some place for 38 years. It took me 50 years to accumulate what I had, and I lost it in three or four hours," says Wells.

One of Wells' concerns is that he will not get enough for the place to find a comparable place to live.

Whenstate lawmakerspassed a $800 million relief plan after the flood, it included nearly $140 million to supplement the FEMA buyout money.

You cannot use the money to move up into a mansion, but homeowners can receive more money free and clear for a comparable place outside the flood plain.

"This is just a grant that can be given to homeowners that can allow them to turn the federal program which is designed to reduce hazards into a real recovery program for the homeowner," says Leza Aycock of the N.C. Department of Commerce.

Farmville officials had expected the process to be a nightmare, but now they say the program works.

"It's nothing like I had imagined, " says Farmville Town Manager Richard Hicks. "I kept telling people I was waiting for someone to tap me on the shoulder and tell us that we were doing it wrong. So far, everything's worked out very well."

As many as 11,000 homes may be bought out once the process is complete.

State leaders say buyout checks should begin showing up throughout flooded regions very soon. Farmville received the first check because it was the first town to apply.


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