State predicts 2020 recovery for Hurricane Matthew victims

Nichols, SC flooding following Hurricane Matthew in October 2016. (Image Source: Terry Sarvis)

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – As the one year anniversary of Hurricane Matthew approaches, many of those affected are still waiting on federal money to repair their homes. State officials say it will likely be another three years before all recovery efforts are complete.

The South Carolina Disaster Recovery Office handles Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds for low-income families who need money the most. So far, more than 300 people in Horry and Marion Counties applied for that money, but one year since Hurricane Matthew hundreds are still waiting to see if they’ll get a dime.

Joann Anderson was one of the hundreds who applied for help from the disaster recovery group.

“I pray to God something comes through for me,” says Anderson.

Anderson waited a year for money from the October flood of 2015 and then had damages from Hurricane Matthew.

“The rain came and it just knocked the top of my porch in and I got a lot of leaks around my windows and the underpin was just flooded out up under my home,” explains Anderson.

The application process for Hurricane Matthew ends next month – 13 months after the storm.

“I got to tell you, you know, recovery is a long, long process,” admits Jr. Sanderson, Program Management Director for the disaster recovery group.

Sanderson says it’s the governmental process that makes the recovery so long.

“It’s a very, very bureaucratic process, but having said that, I’m so proud of this team here in Columbia that we’ve been able to fight through most of that and the proof is in the pudding,” says Sanderson.

The director says 80% of $96 million in disaster funds are to be used in Horry and Marion Counties.

“The problem with Marion and Horry County is that you have a large floodplain,” explains Sanderson. “Now, anytime that I build in a floodplain, I’ve got to increase costs, I’ve got to survey the land, I’ve got to go above base-flood elevation. I’ve got to elevate every beam my way through the building, and it’s much more expensive.”

Officials have begun to process 313 applications but fewer than 20 people have gotten back letters to say they were awarded the cash.

“I’ve got this much disaster and this much money to cure a disaster with. So, if I don’t prioritize it, it puts us in a bad spot,” says Sanderson.

Still, South Carolina is ahead of the game compared to other states.

North Carolina Congressman Robert Pittenger said, “We appropriated almost $200 million last December, and the money still hasn’t been spent! Meanwhile, homes in South Carolina are already being rebuilt with HUD funding.”

Sanderson says they’ve started rebuilding one home in Marion County and hope to have 10 finished by the end of October. He said it’s still too early to tell when all the applicants will know whether or not they’ll get money but he hopes all recovery efforts will be finished by June 2020.