The recently published Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2017 from the Federal Reserve indicated that forty percent of adults in the U.S. would be unable to cover an unexpected expense of $400 or would cover it by selling a possession or borrowing money. Four out of ten adults (and any family members they are supporting) are economically vulnerable and are particularly susceptible to longer term financial difficulties in the aftermath events such as natural disasters, which would trigger large unexpected expenses as well as potentially impact job earnings.
With this in mind, UNC Center for Urban and Regional Studies researchers revisited its 2014 report, North Carolina’s Distressed Urban Tracts: A View of the State’s Economically Disadvantaged Communities, in order to highlight distressed communities that were impacted by Hurricane Florence. The 2014 report examined poverty, unemployment and per capita income at the census tract level to identify the 162 most distressed tracts in North Carolina.
CURS researchers found that almost half (77 of the 162) of the distressed tracts were declared disaster areas after Hurricane Florence. Many of these 77 distressed tracts faced record flooding from Florence. Those tracts with particularly large percentages of housing units located in the floodplain will likely have the greatest long-term recovery needs since many residents will not have the financial resources to address their losses.
Based on information from FloodzoneData.us (a project of the NYU Furman Center), 14 distressed tracts had 10 percent or more of their housing units in the 100-year floodplain. Four distressed tracts had 40 percent or more of their housing units in the 100-year floodplain, including census tract 9303 in Beaufort County where nearly 60 percent of housing units are in the 100-year floodplain. (This tract is located east of Washington and includes the campus of Beaufort County Community College.)
Expanding the analysis to include the 500-year floodplain, seven distressed tracts had 50 percent or more of their housing units in the 100- or 500-year floodplain, with the highest being 98.6% in Robeson County. (This tract is located southwest of Lumberton and includes the area around the airport.)
“Far too many are still recovering from the record flooding and damages brought on by Hurricane Florence,” said CURS Associate Director Todd Owen. “The census tracts identified above were already struggling before disaster hit and will need additional assistance as the recovery process proceeds. These tracts should be targeted for assistance, not only to help with immediate needs but also for efforts to make them more resilient and less vulnerable to disasters in the long term.”