Stand up to the White House on disaster aid

William Murrell stands at the edge of his property in Kinston after Hurricane Matthew struck last October.
William Murrell stands at the edge of his property in Kinston after Hurricane Matthew struck last October. AP

From an editorial Thursday in the (Raleigh) News & Observer:

North Carolina’s congressional delegation – Republicans and Democrats – now must muster all of its influence to gain additional funding for relief for families struck by the flooding from Hurricane Matthew. The amount granted in federal relief, $6.1 million, is inadequate, and Gov. Roy Cooper, a man not given to overstatement, said he felt “shock and disappointment” over the shortfall.

Cooper has appealed to the White House and other federal agencies to fulfill his hope for more than $900 million in relief. The governor says the request is a conservative one made in consultation with a bipartisan group of the state’s members of Congress and the General Assembly.

This is a test, really, for the Republicans in the Congress representing North Carolina. They should be able to get their state what it needs, and they can go around the state and see for themselves that the federal aid thus far offered is not nearly enough.

One percent of what the state requested is woefully short of the need. There should be no question and no hesitation about providing this funding, period. The constituents of these GOP members of Congress and the legislature should make themselves heard – and their representatives should make themselves heard and seen in the agencies that provide relief.

State should help spread the wealth

From an editorial Friday in the (Greensboro) News & Record:

Erica Smith-Ingram grew up on a farm in eastern North Carolina, attended the N.C. School of Science and Math in Durham and earned an engineering degree at N.C. A&T. She went on to work for Boeing and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Then, in 2003, she returned to teach science and math in high school. Today, she lives in Northampton County and represents it and seven other small counties in the state Senate.

Every one of those counties lost population from 2010 through 2015. In much of rural North Carolina, young people leave to find better opportunities, especially if they have the chance to go off to college. Smith-Ingram was no exception, until she decided in mid-career to return home.

The state has tried to interrupt that cycle. Some bad ideas have included redistributing tax revenues from wealthier counties to poorer ones. The N.C. Senate recently advanced another effort in the form of a bill that would reserve more economic incentive money for struggling counties.

The measure sprang from a study of state economic incentive grants that found most of the funds go to Wake and Mecklenburg counties. In 2015, the Job Development Investment Grant program awarded $74 million to companies to help finance job creation, but none of that money went to a project in what the state calls a Tier One county, or most economically distressed.

“I was appalled by the study committee’s findings but not surprised,” Smith-Ingram said.

Two examples: The state announced Tuesday that Credit Suisse will add 1,200 jobs in Wake County and can receive up to $40 million in JDIG grants. The next day, the financial firm AXA said it will add 550 jobs in Mecklenburg County. It will be eligible for nearly $12 million in JDIG funds.

Smith-Ingram’s district is fortunate to have her “back home,” but opportunities for other rural residents will be hard to come by without more state help.