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By Erin Smith

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson joined U.S. Congressman Robert Pittenger in Fayetteville on Friday afternoon to tour the Old Wilmington Road Hope VI property and spoke briefly about Hurricane Matthew recovery.

“I know each of have sought to address the needs in this region. You all have been fully committed and my office is fully committed to support you in every way we can,” said Congressman Pittenger.

Secretary Carson said, “Congressman Pittenger has been a steadfast advocate for this area and has made sure that appropriate federal aid comes here.”

Carson said he has been impressed with the level of resiliency that has been demonstrated in the area since Hurricane Matthew. He said while it has been almost 17 months since the storm struck, to those who were impacted, it seems “like it was yesterday.”

“We recognize also the system that exists can use some improvement because it takes so long to get things done,” said Carson.

He explained that the reason is does take so long for federal relief to reach the area is the many things that have been layered into the process. He added those things, while well intended, have made it difficult to quickly and efficiently respond. Carson said the administration recognizes this is a big issue.

He said there have been meetings between HUD, the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA and other federal agencies to discuss what can be done to improve the situation. Carson said more then 17 agencies have been taking part in the meetings attempting to find ways to improve the process.

He said officials have worked out some of the issues regarding the $236 million in aid that has already been appropriated for this region. Congressman Pittenger also announced additional funds have also been allocated. When the budget was approved by Congress early Friday morning, an additional $125 million in funds was made available to North Carolina.

“I have been very impressed with the resilience I have seen here. People were able to very quickly move in themselves and mitigate the situation and then say whatever help you can give us is fine,” said Carson.

Carson said the Community Development Block Grant money has been approved and will soon be distributed to the state and local officials.

When asked how soon the area can expect to get those funds, Carson replied “as soon as possible.” He emphasized the funds have been approved and those responsible for dispersing the funds have been notified.

Congressman Pittenger and Secretary Carson also toured the Old Wilmington Road Hope VI to view the recovery effort. The building which houses senior adults was flooded by Blount Creek following Hurricane Matthew. Shannon Powell, Chief Financial Officer for United Management II, led the tour and explained how the building was renovated following the flood. She said on the first floor all of the carpet had to be removed and the sheetrock had to be repaired and painted. Powell said the facility underwent a complete renovation. Among other things, the building features a salon on the second floor and a gym facility on the third floor.