Hurricanes

Wayne County woman's rejection for help after Florence, Matthew stirs frustration

Posted November 15, 2018 8:00 p.m. EST
Updated November 16, 2018 12:56 p.m. EST

— A Wayne County woman has been denied federal assistance to help her get back on her feet after Hurricane Florence soaked central North Carolina and the coast two months ago. But the Goldsboro woman was rejected for help because she didn't live in her home.

The problem was Staris Morgan couldn't live in her home because of prior flood damage from Hurricane Matthew.

She says the molding, creaky bones of her home remind her of the nightmare she has experienced the past two years.

"It just breaks my heart," she said. "It gets worse and worse."

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

Although she had home and flood insurance, she didn't have enough coverage to complete repairs or replace the contents in her house.

And the city of Goldsboro required Morgan to elevate the home because it's in a high-risk flood area, a project she couldn't afford.

And she was forced to maintain ownership of the house, because, "I was not eligible for a buyout."

When rental assistance ran out, she paid to stay in an apartment while still paying her mortgage.

Then, Florence hit.

Her home has been condemned, but she is still paying her mortgage. So, she 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, adding that "there is no way possible" to live in the residence because of the flood damage.

WRAL News asked Gov. Cooper about Morgan's plight.

"That has to be so frustrating for her, maddening in fact," he said on Wednesday, while in Washington, D.C., to lobby for more hurricane aid. "It's time to ease FEMA's hard and fast funding rules."

Cooper said more flexibility is needed from federal agencies, "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."

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

"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.