When $96 Million Isn’t Enough: State's Flood Recovery Program Only Helps About Half of Applicants

Apr 7, 2017

During a 2016 town hall meeting, Williamsburg County residents learn about the state's flood recovery program. Officials report the program is on track to help 1500 households.
Credit Thelisha Eaddy/SC Public Radio

When the state’s 2015 flood recovery program was created, Program Director, retired Army Col. J.R. Sanderson knew $96 million dollars was not going to be enough money to recovery every resident who would have remaining unmet needs. SC Public Radio spoke with Col. Sanderson about how the new program is helping residents in 22 counties and what options will be left to those who the program cannot help.

“We’re at a point now in the program where I think we can show some substantial growth,” Col. Sanderson said. “I would say that right now, we feel good about where we’re at.”

That’s because recent data collected by the team shows the program is on track to accomplish its mission of offering a housing-focused recovery for the most vulnerable citizens in the state. Those are people with extremely low, very low and low incomes.

During a recent meeting, SCDRO reported 71% of applicants had no income (the program does not count social security as income) and 84% were over the age of 65. “You can see by the data that we shared today, that we feel like we’re certainly hitting that target audience, he said.”

The program is also trying to get clients in new or repaired housing in an accelerated time frame. “This is a new program and again, we’re trying to do something that nobody’s ever done before; recover this fast and we’re determined to do it,” Sanderson said.

Unfortunately we've got two miles worth of disaster and a quarter-mile worth of money.

The program has a six month intake period,  with April 30 the last day residents can apply. Its estimated there will be 3500 applicants at that time. The office reported approximately 1900 of those applicants will fall into the top two most vulnerable groups, leaving about 1600 applicants outside the financial scope of program.

"Unfortunately we've got two miles worth of disaster and a quarter-mile worth of money," Sanderson said.

The recovery program is operating off of a $96 million grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development or HUD.  SCDRO is responsible for using the funds in the 22 of the 24 presidentially-declared counties affected by the October 2015 storm. Financial limits on home repairs and the number new manufactured units for home replacements put the amount of households the program can service at 1500. Those the program cannot help, may receive assistance from long term recovery group(s) in their area.

By The Numbers

By the Numbers: At the end of March, 936 of all preliminarily eligible applicants (2,194) were listed as 1st priority.
Credit SCDRO

Winyah Bay Long Term Recovery Group Expects Most of Its Cases to Be Covered Through SCDRO Program

Within the past year, the Winyah Bay Long Term Recovery Group closed 48% of their flood-recovery cases and expects the majority of what's left to be covered through SCDRO's program.

Originally the group had 1400 cases. Lucy Woodhouse, President and CEO of United Way Black River said about 600 of those cases have been closed for carious reasons.

“People were able to help themselves. The long term recovery group has completed about 157 homes with repair and renovation,” she said.

Currently the group has about 740 cases left open. The group covers Williamsburg and Georgetown counties, two areas listed as some of the hardest hit by the flood and also areas with a high number of vulnerable residents. Woodhouse said their clients and the targeted audience of the SCDRO program are the same and expects them to be included in the 1500 homes it plans to help. Woodhouse said this would leave the Winyah Bay Long Term Recovery Group with 180 houses in need of repair.