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New Report Looks at NC's Emergency Funds for Natural Disasters

Hurricane Florence hits the east coast of the United States in September 2018. (NASA/Adobe Stock)
Hurricane Florence hits the east coast of the United States in September 2018. (NASA/Adobe Stock)
June 25, 2020

RALEIGH, N. C. -- North Carolina saves on average $6.43 in recovery efforts for every dollar spent on natural-disaster mitigation.

That's slightly above the national average of $6.00, according to a report from The Pew Charitable Trusts that looks at how states are budgeting for emergencies in the wake of mounting costs and shrinking tax revenue due to COVID-19.

Between 2017 and 2018, North Carolina padded its emergency reserves with more than $22 million.

Keith Acree, communications officer for the North Carolina Emergency Management Office, said the state continues to implement natural-disaster mitigation efforts.

"We had, I think, almost $300 million worth of mitigation projects after [Hurricane] Matthew," said Acree. We're just now getting into the Hurricane Florence mitigation projects. And there are smaller amounts of money that came after smaller storms like Tropical Storm Michael and Hurricane Dorian for mitigation projects, as well."

The study also found state lawmakers have prioritized disaster-relief funding, noting that in 2019, North Carolina's General Assembly passed emergency budget legislation to pay for damage from Hurricane Florence.

According to Acree, the state remains focused on property buyouts and elevation work in high-risk areas: "We know that any dollar invested in mitigation efforts is returned several-fold in avoided costs later."

He added that, for the first time this year, the state identified 20 coastal counties as pre-determined evacuation zones. People can find their county's zone online at knowyourzone.nc.gov.

Colin Foard studies government spending as associate manager for fiscal federalism at The Pew Charitable Trusts. Foard said states face an uncertain future when it comes to receiving federal funding for natural disasters, as Congress continues to grapple with the public-health crisis brought on by the coronavirus.

"So, that's even more of an imperative for states to take a close look at how they're budgeting, what they're spending, how they're investing in mitigation," Foard said, "to help understand how they would respond."

The Government Accountability Office estimates that between 2005 and 2019, the federal government shelled out $460 billion in disaster assistance.


Support for this reporting was provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - NC