Storm recovery focus of new NC legislative panel

Posted May 9, 2011 4:00 a.m. EDT
Updated May 9, 2011 6:33 p.m. EDT

— Federal and North Carolina emergency officials say they're trying to get the word out about government assistance available to people whose homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed by last month's tornadoes.

Michael Bolch with the Federal Emergency Management Agency told lawmakers about recovery efforts during Monday's first meeting of a joint legislative committee examining whether more needs to be done to help storm victims. The tornadoes killed 24 people and seriously injured more than 130.

"So far I've been very excited to talk to the FEMA directors," said Rep. Mike Stone, who serves Lee County and part of Harnett County. "The good thing about bringing the legislators here today is we'll get more feedback from all those communities to find out where we're going and what the response has been."

According to a report presented to lawmakers at the meeting, the state's greatest loss of life was in Bertie County, where 12 people died.

Wake County's property damage to 2,000 homes and 54 businesses topped other counties, the report stated. 

Bolch said about $6.5 million in grants and low-interest loans have been offered so far to displaced residents and business owners.

Legislators from the hardest-hit areas say they're worried many people are turning away from assistance because they qualify for loans, not grants. Bolch said FEMA can't force anyone to receive assistance.

The committee will also consider whether legislative action is necessary to get relief to victims faster.