Hurricane Matthew: Where’s the Relief?

Perhaps you’ve seen the headlines-
thousands of North Carolinians affected by Hurricane Matthew are still in need
of aid. The federal money is there. So why, two years later, have zero
projects been completed? Hurricane Matthew made landfall in North Carolina
on October 8th 2016. The impact of the storm on our state has been devastating.
In April of 2017, Governor Roy Cooper requested federal funds for relief, and
almost two years later most of the hurricane victims eligible for recovery
money are still waiting! Why are they still waiting? The process to determine
which company would execute the distribution of these funds from the
disaster recovery grant began in January of 2018. Initially the idea was for the
work to be distributed between three different companies, but a single company
by the name of Innovative Emergency Management was finally selected in June
of 2018. One would assume they were the most qualified company to bid for the
job based on experience and competency, but the standards used to select which
company would do the work appeared to focus less on objectively assessing each
company’s competency and more on tailoring it to favor one company in
particular. However, IEM was found to have racked up 443 performance complaints and
penalties related to the work they did in Louisiana alone! So why would the
Cooper administration select a company to execute such important work whose
track record or performance in other states has been seemingly abysmal at
best? Maybe, just maybe, the fact that IEM CEO Madhu Beriwal has given
thousands of dollars to Cooper for North Carolina had something to do with it?
According to a report from Follow the Money,
Beriwal has given over $93,000 to 18 different
politicians over nine years. And at least 16 of those were in states where Beriwal’s company conveniently obtained or is bidding to obtain major disaster
relief projects. So did governor Cooper accept donations in exchange for giving
a state contract to that donor’s company? Would he really jeopardized the hurricane
recovery to favor a company whose CEO is a big donor of his, despite
the fact that that company also has such a poor track record and hundreds of
complaints on file? The Director of Emergency Management has even admitted
that he could not provide an explanation as to why he would try to steer a
contract to a company that the evaluation committee found had not
adequately performed. This apparent conflict of interest might not need to
be raised if IEM was doing their job for the people of North Carolina. But
unfortunately, thanks to their incompetency, the Cooper administration
has missed deadline after deadline to get relief to North Carolinians in
urgent need. So what now? Well, just a couple of months away from the two-year
anniversary of Hurricane Matthew, there have been zero relief projects completed,
and there’s been zero transparency from the Cooper administration. All of this
inaction has prompted the Speaker of the House to reauthorize the special Select
Committee on Hurricane Relief to make sure the people of North Carolina get
what they need to recover. And let’s hope they get the help they deserve very soon!

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