- Associated Press - Thursday, April 6, 2017

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Gov. Roy Cooper is seeking nearly $1 billion from Congress to help North Carolina counties still recovering from Hurricane Matthew more than six months after it caused massive inland flooding and killed 28 people.

The new funding request is in addition to approximately $1.4 billion in state and federal funds the state has already received, Cooper said in a news release Thursday.

“Though the emergency nature of the disaster has passed the urgency of long-term recovery remains,” Cooper wrote. “The success of the recovery will affect the economic health and well-being of our entire state, so it’s vital to rebuild these communities.”

Hurricane Matthew struck in October, dumping 8 to 12 inches of rain across much of eastern and central North Carolina. It caused an estimated $4.8 billion in damage while displacing thousands of families and damaging more than 98,000 homes and over 19,000 businesses, the governor said.

Half of North Carolina’s counties, 50, suffered some damage from the storm, he said.

Even if the state receives Cooper’s full ask of more than $929 million, the money won’t return North Carolina to its pre-Matthew status, the governor wrote in a letter to the state’s congressional delegation. But, he said, “it will enable us to restore primary infrastructure and to protect our state’s residents, with a priority on housing for those most vulnerable in our communities who have no way to repair or replace homes or businesses even with the help of neighbors and the generosity of charities.”

The state is especially concerned with finding affordable homes for victims of the October storm, especially the 270 households still living in transitional housing, such as a motel, said Mike Sprayberry, director of the state Division of Emergency Management.

Most are in Robeson County, where 126 households are living in motels as of Thursday, with others in Edgecombe, Cumberland and Wayne counties.

State officials would like to have everyone living in more permanent housing by the end of April, he said. “We’re not going to put people on the street,” he said Thursday. “We started with over 3,000 and we’re down to 270. But if there’s one, that’s important, and we need to focus on it.”

Cooper’s request includes almost $167 million to help homeowners with repairs; almost $64 million to repair rental housing; and about $15 million to repair public housing in Princeville and Lumberton. It also includes $434 million for buyout, elevation and reconstruction of 3,962 properties that flooded during Matthew and are at risk for flooding in the future.

In December, legislators approved spending $201 million to address disaster recovery for Matthew and mountain wildfires. Cooper’s proposed budget includes $115 million more for storm and fire recovery.

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Follow Martha Waggoner at https://twitter.com/mjwaggonernc

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