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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Edith Warren, August 28, 2002. Interview K-0601. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Struggling to find money for recovery

Warren describes the financial impact of the flood, revealing her belief in the government's responsibility to its citizens. Residents who lost their homes received little help in rebuilding them or buying new ones, receiving most of their aid from faith-based organizations instead of the government. This passage reveals the bureaucratic tangle that followed the flood and Warren's effort to recover money for her community.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Edith Warren, August 28, 2002. Interview K-0601. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

LEDA HARTMAN:
I'm wondering if there were some people who were just above the eligibility requirements to get state or federal aid, who may have gotten hurt in the flood, but were not able to get as much recovery as people who perhaps were of lower socioeconomic –
EDITH WARREN:
And there were, of course, a number of those people, which means that, in some cases, folks have two mortgages now, because they had a mortgage on their home originally. They qualified for a small business loan, which is a low-interest loan that is a federal program. But now they have that mortgage, so they have two mortgages, and for many families that is very, very difficult.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Just because their house doesn't exist anymore doesn't mean you can quit paying on it.
EDITH WARREN:
That's right. That's right. So that has been very difficult.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Is there any help for those types of people, or do they just have to soldier on?
EDITH WARREN:
Well, they have pretty much soldiered on. They did receive some repair and renovation money that everyone received, and there were some other private or faith community kinds of grants, and those small kinds of assistances, that did help along the way. But it has been a very difficult and heart-wrenching process along the way. It really has. And we're not home yet. Legislative delegation members from throughout the affected area are very much committed to working diligently, to seeing this through all the way. And then, as it appeared that we were losing access to some of the available monies a few weeks ago—
LEDA HARTMAN:
This is state recovery money for Floyd, and it seemed like some of that would be rescinded, right?
EDITH WARREN:
That's right, some of that was rescinded and halted, and we had projects and contracts in various stages of completion. And it caused some real trauma on top of the trauma of the loss from the beginning.
LEDA HARTMAN:
On the part of local officials trying to coordinate the recovery?
EDITH WARREN:
Trying to get it coordinated, and if these monies are rescinded, that meant those contracts stopped where they were. We had people expecting to get paid to get work done, people expecting to close out on the buyout of their home and purchase of their new one, or to pay a contractor, and getting projects underway like the one in Greene County that was ready to roll out. And how do you pay those bills and there is no money, and you have a binding contract?
LEDA HARTMAN:
And you have been counting on that money.
EDITH WARREN:
And we have been counting on that money. So we went into action very quickly and got a meeting put together of interested parties from the local government, areas throughout the region. A goodly number of them got here for a meeting with the general assembly and from the recovery office, and from the governor's office.
LEDA HARTMAN:
And you were instrumental in organizing that meeting, weren't you?
EDITH WARREN:
Yes. It became evident very, very quickly that we had to have a group together. We were running out of time, and so we got on the phone and just very, very quickly, almost like from this morning to this afternoon, getting that together. And people responded, and the message was very clear, that we needed to recapture this money because the needs were out there, we had binding contracts and so forth. And together we worked through that, and hopefully we are on track again.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Now this is something that you felt that the local officials on the ground had to sort of give a reality-check about to state officials. Is that right?
EDITH WARREN:
Absolutely. Absolutely. And it was a reality-check.
LEDA HARTMAN:
What were some of the assumptions that the state officials were going on that the locals had to say, "Wait a minute, this isn't what we're dealing with."
EDITH WARREN:
Well, at the state level it was the rescinding of the money. And then on the local level, the reality was we have binding contracts here.
LEDA HARTMAN:
And the needs aren't finished.
EDITH WARREN:
And the needs aren't finished.
LEDA HARTMAN:
And at the state level there's concern for the budget crisis.
EDITH WARREN:
The budget, trying to balance the budget and close it out for the fiscal year.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Thank you so much for your time and thoughtfulness. You're a wonderful interview. So it was important, you thought, for the people who were dealing with this—
EDITH WARREN:
Everybody had to be in the room together, around the table, to solve this problem.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Now, how much of the flood recovery money originally was going to get rescinded, and how much were you able to recover?
EDITH WARREN:
I am not sure what those figures were. I can get that information for you. But we were getting down to the point that the numbers were fairly small as compared with the original numbers. But when we're getting the point that we're talking about a hundred million dollars, at this point that was considerable money. If the money had been rescinded, that would have left like fifteen million or so in the Hurricane Floyd Recovery pot, which would not have been enough to do business. It would have, in effect, closed it down. We could not let that happen, because we were not finished, and it was important that the people who had been devastated with this flood not to be abandoned. This has to be finished. We can be certain that in today's world there is going to be another natural disaster, whether it's tornadoes, whether it's going to be ice storms, whether it's going to be the West, flooding in the East, hurricane, ravaging forest fires—
LEDA HARTMAN:
Drought, like we've had this summer.
EDITH WARREN:
Drought. You know, we just know that at some point in time there is going to be another need, and we just cannot leave our citizens abandoned.