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Lawmakers Question State About Delays in Distribution of Flood Relief Money

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RALEIGH — Money for Hurricane Floyd relief flooded into state coffers as fast as river waters washed over their banks. That water is long gone, but the money is only trickling down to the people who need it. Tuesday, lawmakers asked why.

TheN.C. General Assemblydedicated $863 million to flood relief during its special session in December. So far, only $300 million -- about 36 percent -- has been spent. Everyone involved wants the process to move at a faster pace.

Hurricane Floyd swept through North Carolina eight months ago, damaging or destroying more than 55,000 homes.

Eight months later, hundreds of flood victims are still living inFEMAtrailers in Rocky Mount. They are waiting for federal approval of what will be the largest buyout in history.

"They're very frustrated at the process. They want to get back on their feet, want to get on with their lives. It's understandable, their frustration," saysSen. Roy Cooper, D-Rocky Mount.

Twenty programs were approved in December. Establishing those new programs takes time. The director of the state'sHurricane Floyd Redevelopment Centerbriefed lawmakers Tuesday. He says the relief effort is moving at a "remarkable" pace.

The relief money is administered by state employees who are also working their regular jobs. That is slowing down the process, but state officials say a lot of the hold-up is at the federal level. They vow that most of the relief money will be in the hands of flood victims by the first of the year.

"It will be out there working. With the houses being built, programs to restore water or sewer systems will be under way," says director Billy Ray Hall.

State officials say the pace of the relief effort is picking up. They also point out that some Goldsboro residents are still waiting for a FEMA buyout that was approved after Hurricane Fran.

While money from the state has been distributed slowly, flood victims received money from other sources.

Federal agencies and Congress have already given more than $2 billion to North Carolina. Hundreds of millions more could be on the way if President Clinton gets his way.

Private citizens also donated $18 million to theGovernor's Hurricane Floyd Disaster Relief Fund.


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