Midlands gets more than $60 million in HUD flood recovery funds

Additional federal funds for flood recovery are coming to the Midlands while elected officials continue to figure out which projects will get the money. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development will issue more than $60 million to the city of Columbia, Richland County and Lexington County.

The funds are part of nearly $157 million awarded to South Carolina to supplement repairs to infrastructure and housing damaged in last October’s floods.

“After disaster strikes, the most important task is getting folks back to a safe home quickly, so they can return to their daily lives,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro. “With this $157 million disaster recovery investment, we uphold our commitment to helping these communities recover stronger and be better prepared for future disasters.”

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Columbia: $19,989,000

Richland County: $23,516,000

Lexington County: $16,332,000

State of South Carolina: $96,827,000

TOTAL: $156,664,000

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The dollars come from the HUD Community Development Block Grant disaster recovery program. Congress authorized more than $300 million in December to communities in South Carolina and Texas that faced substantial damage from natural disasters in 2015.

Data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Small Business Administration disaster loan programs helped target grant funding to areas that had the greatest needs. The dollars will fill the gap that flood insurance and FEMA’s hazard mitigation funding could not.

Home and business rehabilitation, road and public works restoration, public facilities and services improvements and business assistance are examples of how the funds can be used, according to grant requirements.

More than half of the funds must be used to help low- to moderate-income residents.

“I expect Council to be focused on quickly helping citizens with their housing needs and to have a longterm strategy focused on our environment, sustainability, small businesses, affordable housing and disaster preparedness,” said Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin.

Benjamin said the city incurred an estimated $75 million in actual damages to city property. City officials are also seeking an additional $50 million for mitigation efforts like buying property in the floodplains and reinforcing infrastructure to avoid damage in a future natural disaster.

Columbia’s city council allocated over $7 million in November to begin initial repairs to bridges, roads and the Columbia Canal. City manager Teresa Wilson said at the time she expects those funds to be reimbursed by FEMA through its public assistance program.

FEMA has already distributed $4.6 million to the city for infrastructure repair.

Richland County Council established a Blue Ribbon Committee made up of citizens, non-profits, businesses, civic and faith-based groups, elected officials and other organizations to review flood recovery projects and make recommendations to council. Emergency Services Deputy Director Mike King also was appointed by county council to oversee flood recovery efforts.

County officials determined last November that approximately $15.1 million would be needed to begin the long-term repair of roads and infrastructure. County Administrator Tony McDonald said the county had received $848,000 from FEMA at the time to cover labor, employee time and other operations costs incurred during the floods.

County Council also approved $1.5 million in emergency funds to hire a consultant to conduct flood assessments and to spray for mosquitoes in the Lower Richland area.

“We’re extremely appreciative Richland County is receiving this allocation of CDBG-DR funds to help our residents,” said Council Chairman Torrey Rush. “We will continue working with our citizens along with our Blue Ribbon Committee to determine the best use of all disaster recovery funding to help move our County forward.”

A county spokesperson said an action plan still needs to be submitted to HUD with specific programs and projects that meet certain HUD criteria. The federal agency requires action plans to be submitted 45 days before projects take off. The latest date to submit for this fiscal year is Aug. 16.

“I know our citizens are eagerly anticipating the disbursement of these funds as we are, however we must submit and receive approval for our comprehensive action plan, which is underway, before we can receive our dollars,” Rush said. “This funding will help tremendously in restoring lives and helping many residents look toward the future with restored hope.”

Categories: Lexington County, Local News, Richland County

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