- Associated Press - Monday, February 29, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina and two counties hardest hit by last fall’s catastrophic flooding will share $157 million from the federal government, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced Monday.

HUD Secretary Julian Castro said the state will receive nearly $97 million of the disaster recovery aid. Richland County will receive $23.5 million. The city of Columbia, the state’s capital, will get nearly $20 million, and Lexington County will receive $16 million.

“After disaster strikes, the most important task is getting folks back to a safe home quickly, so they can return to their daily lives,” Castro said in a news release. “We uphold our commitment to helping these communities recover stronger and be better prepared for future disasters.”

The money won’t be seen for months. Local officials aren’t even sure how they can spend it.

HUD will post its rules for the money “in the weeks ahead.” The state and local governments must then submit their plans and go through an approval process, said HUD spokesman Joseph Phillips.

“We’re extremely thankful,” said Columbia city manager Teresa Wilson. Part of the city’s award may pay for water and sewer projects, she said.

Dams that burst amid historic rainfall of up to 2 feet over several days contributed to the flooding in early October.

Breaches in the Columbia Canal left much of the city without clean water for more than a week.

The awards mean South Carolina will receive most of the $300 million Congress set aside in the federal budget, approved in December, as aid for 2015 flooding disasters. According to HUD, communities in South Carolina and Texas were determined to have the highest need for the aid.

Gov. Nikki Haley had asked the state’s congressional delegation for $140 million to help repair poor residents’ homes.

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