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Goldsboro woman flooded out by Matthew, Florence still searching for help to return home

March 14, 2019 GMT

Staris Morgan gets up every day to fight bureaucracy.

“There’s a lot of others that have lost. I’m one that has kept fighting,” Morgan said.

She says she has no choice because she has nowhere to live.

After Hurricane Matthew swallowed her Goldsboro home in 2016, the Federal Emergency Management Agency paid some rental assistance and just enough money to tear out the flood damage.

Goldsboro required that Morgan elevate the home because it’s in a high-risk flood area. She couldn’t afford that, and she also wasn’t eligible for a buyout.

So, she continued to pay her mortgage and flood insurance while living in an apartment.

Then Hurricane Florence hit last fall, flooding the home for a second time.

“What a mess. What a mess,” Morgan said during a recent visit to her house.

The mold-covered ceiling is crumbling, yet she’s gotten no disaster assistance after the second historic storm.

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“I’ve been turned away. I’ve been turned down,” she said. “Denied, denied, denied.”

Despite a “condemned” sign on the front door, FEMA rejected her claims, saying the house is no longer her primary residence and that it’s livable.

“Who could live here?” she asked.

Morgan’s last hope appears to be a Community Development Block Grant, and she’s four steps through an eight-step review process.

“It’s the only encouraging news I’ve had, believe it or not,” she said. “I need a decision because I’m going to be put out [of the apartment]. I won’t have anywhere to stay.”

FEMA doesn’t talk publicly about specific cases, but agency spokesman John Mills addressed Morgan and others struggling while waiting for federal help.

“FEMA may be able to provide some assistance and has for tens of thousands of households, but other organizations are also providing assistance going through the state level, other federal agencies along with charity nonprofit and faith-based organizations,” Mills said. “The key is staying in touch to let everyone know your needs.”

Since Florence made landfall in North Carolina, the federal government has distributed $1.2 billion in aid, from rental assistance to repair help.