Turns Out, FEMA Was NOT Approved

Updated 4 weeks ago Sundae Horn

UPDATE: FAKE NEWS ALERT: Rep. Murphy gave Ocracoke residents misinformation.

Governor Roy Cooper on Ocracoke 9/23/19
Governor Roy Cooper on Ocracoke 9/23/19

Statements made by our new representative, Congressman Murphy, were contradicted by governor Roy Cooper two days later. 

Governor Roy Cooper visited Ocracoke today (Monday, September 23rd) along with several members of his cabinet. During the Q & A following his remarks, members of the press asked about Ocracoke's FEMA status. Cooper explained that the official requests that he sent in (one for Public Assistance on September 13 and one for Individual Assistance on September 21) are "processing" at FEMA and have not been sent to the POTUS yet. 

This contradicts what Congressman Murphy told Ocracoke residents on Saturday, when he announced that the president had signed off on Public Assistance. 

The governor's answers were disappointing to the gathering of Ocracoke residents and Hyde County employees.

County commissioner Tom Pahl called Murphy's announcement a "serious case of misinformation."

Was Murphy misinformed? On his first day on the job? He has changed the Facebook post from Saturday (see below) and removed the sentence about President Trump.

This series of unfortunate events did nothing to ease the confusion about the FEMA process. 

Some misunderstanding may stem from the initial emergency declaration that Trump signed on September 3rd. This mobilizes FEMA, but their help is limited until the next two documents are signed, which will declare Ocracoke and other parts of NC a "major disaster area." Once that happens, more FEMA programs and funding become available.  

As an example of the process, we can look to Wisconsin, which experienced severe tornadoes and flooding on July 18-20, 2019. Trump signed off on a major disaster declaration for that area on August 27, 2019, thirty-eight days later. Ocracoke is only 18 days out, so we might be waiting awhile. 

Concerned citizens can be proactive. Calls to Senator Richard Burr (202-224-3154), Senator Thom Tillis (202-224-6342), and the White House (202-456-1111) are effective at keeping Ocracoke on their radar. (The squeaky wheel gets the grease!)

Another disappointing comment came from Mike Sprayberry, director of NC emergency management. He said he felt confident that FEMA Public Assistance funds would be approved, but he wasn't sure NC and Ocracoke would get the Individual Assistance. PA funds will reimburse the county and state for what they've spent on debris removal, road repairs, and other public needs. But the money to help households and businesses can only come after IA is approved. 

Saturday, September 21, 2019: Murphy came, saw, got the call. 

UPDATE: Rep. Murphy posted on his Facebook page at 5pm Saturday: I spent this morning on Ocracoke Island talking to residents, first responders, National Park Service officials and Hyde County officials about the impacts and devastation by Hurricane Dorian. I was alerted by FEMA today that public assistance funding was approved by President Trump and individual assistance has been requested by the Governors Office. I will continue working with FEMA to advocate on your behalf. #OcracokeStrong

Congressman Greg Murphy on Ocracoke 9/21/19
Congressman Greg Murphy on Ocracoke 9/21/19

Following a brief visit from our new Congressman Greg Murphy, Ocracoke got the news that President Trump declared N.C. a federal disaster area, allowing funding for public assistance to the island and other places damaged by Hurricane Dorian. 

Congressman Murphy addressed a large crowd of Ocracoke residents in front of the Fire House today around 10:30am. Just before that, he had been given a tour of the village and was also taken to see the damage to Hwy. 12 at the north end. 

He told the gathering that this was his first congressional visit as he was just sworn in on September 17th following the special election on September 10th. 

In his brief comments, he said he would call the White House first thing Monday morning and request that the disaster declaration be made. Only a state governor can make the formal request; NC Governor Roy Cooper sent the president the official request for public assistance on September 13th. 

After the crowd dispersed and Congressman Murphy left, word went out on the coconut telegraph that he was coming back at around 11:30 to make another announcement. I'm sorry to say I missed him by minutes, but county commissioners Tom Pahl and Earl Pugh told me what Murphy said. 

Murphy announced that he had gotten the call that FEMA Public Assistance had been approved at the federal level. 

County manager Kris Noble told me that she has unofficial word that Governor Cooper has sent up the request for Individual Assistance. (See more about the differences in the article to follow.)

Did Murphy's visit help? 

It certainly didn't hurt. 

Murphy is a medical doctor and volunteered with disaster relief in Mississippi (after Katrina) and Haiti (after the earthquake). He praised Ocracoke's resiliency and promised to advocate on our behalf. 

"All together we are going to move forward," he said. 

He also announced that as soon as the FEMA individual assistance is approved that Ocracokers will get help with temporary housing. 

"There are hundreds of trailers waiting in Kinston, ready to be mobilized," he said. Individual assistance can also help with lost wages, he said in answer to a question from the crowd. 

Tom Pahl also made a statement. He asked that Murphy make it clear to the White House that Dorian "destroyed mostly older homes, occupied by older residents."

"We aren't asking for help with second or third homes in a resort area," Tom said. "These are family values people who need homes." 

Murphy answered with the information that FEMA individual assistance only helps with primary dwellings, not vacation homes. 

The general buzz around the gathering was appreciation that Murphy made the visit. It's interesting to note that he praised the people of Ocracoke, most of whom voted for his opponent. Although Murphy won the special election overall, he lost in Hyde County (with 47.35% of the vote; 51.9% went to the Democrat, Allen Thomas.) On Ocracoke, Allen Thomas was the clear favorite with 78% of the vote; Murphy got only 20%. As several people said to me, "At least he came here."

Murphy will be up for reelection in 2020 – he was elected to finish out the term for Congressman Walter B. Jones who died in February. 

 

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