Democratic North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper had to go back to the drawing board to secure disaster relief for parts of the state.
The governor asked the Small Business Administration to grant a disaster declaration for a handful of North Carolina counties that were affected by Hurricane Dorian.
The effort is a follow-up attempt after the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied Cooper’s request for individual assistance last week. But Republican U.S. Sens. Thom Tillis and Richard Burr said Cooper’s request was a ruse.
“…Our offices met with representatives from N.C. Emergency Management and Governor Cooper’s office to discuss the next steps. In that meeting, Governor Cooper’s staff acknowledged they knew when they submitted their request that there was a strong likelihood it would be denied,” Tillis and Burr said in a joint statement. “They also confirmed that FEMA’s decision was based on data from the counties collected in partnership with the state.”
Tillis and Burr advised the governor to tap into state programs to retrieve the necessary aid instead.
On Friday, Cooper sent a letter to the SBA appealing for the declaration for Carteret, Dare, Hyde, New Hanover and surrounding counties. If approved, the SBA would give the governor the green light to issue loans to North Carolinians affected by the storm.
“I’m asking the SBA for assistance so we can get more state help to Hurricane Dorian survivors as quickly as possible. While it’s disappointing that federal government assistance for this was turned down, we know that North Carolinians should not leave each other behind,” Cooper said in a statement Friday.
The governor requested individual assistance from the Trump administration on Sept. 21. When the request went unanswered, he sent a letter to Tillis and Burr urging them to speak to Trump officials. FEMA later denied the request for individual assistance. The decision followed a string of delayed federal disaster recovery requests made by North Carolina. Frustrated with the process, Cooper led a group of governors in sending a letter to Congress pushing for a revamp of the process.
The group of governors wants Congress to pass legislation that would expedite the process for the Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery program and create an integrated (across departments) application for aid. North Carolina has waited for three years to receive millions of dollars in disaster aid for Hurricane Matthew.
Cooper’s office did not immediately respond to request for comment. However, the U.S. senators said the request for individual assistance was misrepresented by Cooper.
“We strongly support requesting any potential federal aid, but misleading North Carolinians about why FEMA made their decision does a gross disservice to the men, women, and families who are still rebuilding their lives,” the statement said.