COLUMBIA, S.C. —The cost of sending school buses from Greenville and the Midlands to the South Carolina coast to help with Hurricane Matthew evacuation will likely be at least $600,000 and could approach $1 million, according to the state Department of Education.
DOE spokesman Ryan Brown says the cost of fuel, bus drivers’ pay, and the cost of their food and hotels is expected to be about $600,000. But there are other costs, like damage to some bus facilities along the coast and one bus that had to be repaired, which could bring the total closer to $1 million.
The state sent the buses to the Lowcountry to help evacuate people who didn’t have transportation, with the plan being to bring evacuees to the Upstate, but most of the buses ended up not being used. Only about 25 of them were used to take nursing home residents to a shelter in the Lowcountry.
Gov. Nikki Haley says the state’s emergency plans include sending to counties and cities whatever help they need. “They anticipated a lot more people who would need transportation out, so they requested the number of buses. The state EMD did what they wanted them to do and gave the buses there, and basically what we said and learned from that is we’ve got to manage these requests that are coming in,” she says.
“That was a disappointment that we took buses from the Upstate to go down to the Lowcountry and we had very few of them used. We went to work immediately, as soon as we saw we were not having the activity, we started releasing those buses right back,” she says.
Federal disaster aid will pay for most of that cost.
The governor also gave an update on hurricane recovery efforts. The state still has two shelters open with 93 residents. Those are in Marion and Horry counties, which are still dealing with flooding from the hurricane.
“We’ve had 174 homes completely damaged,” the governor says. “We have had 664 homes with what’s considered major damage. And then we’ve had 1,255 homes with minor damage that have been affected. So that’s well over 2,000 homes that we have as of now. That number will continue to grow as we get into Horry and Marion and start to see what’s happening.”
She says power outages have been repaired, and the state now has only 54 roads and 5 bridges closed.
At the Governor’s Mansion Wednesday morning, Nucor Steel presented her with a check for $100,000 for the One SC Relief Fund. That fund helps get people back into their homes by paying for repairs.
JoAnn Turnquist, president and CEO of the Central Carolina Community Foundation that administers the fund, says, “We have FEMA money and we have HUD money, but those dollars don’t come close to helping those in need. If someone had a pre-existing condition, a hole in their roof or if they didn’t have insurance, they don’t qualify for the aid that’s coming in from governmental agencies. So this fund really does help to bridge that gap and helps those who otherwise would not be helped.”