UPDATE: More Counties Get On Federal Help List

Gov. Beverly Perdue has secured federal approval for public assistance, not individual assistance, to 20 counties in eastern North Carolina to help with recovery from Hurricane Irene.

Perdue's office announced the approval Thursday night. The 20 counties are: Beaufort, Brunswick, Carteret, Chowan, Columbus, Craven, Dare, Duplin, Edgecombe, Halifax, Hyde, Jones, Lenoir, Martin, Nash, Onslow, Pamlico, Pender, Tyrrell and Wilson.

Assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency enables local governments to recover costs for storm response, debris removal and infrastructure damage estimated at more than $40 million thus far.

State and federal damage assessment teams have been canvassing eastern North Carolina since Sunday, and the governor's office said more counties could be added later.

The federal government on Thursday added Halifax and Lenoir to the list of seven counties already approved for individual assistance.

Governor Beverly Perdue says Lenoir and Halifax counties have been added to the federal disaster declaration for the state. That will enable families and business owners to seek low-interest loans or grants to help them recover from Hurricane Irene.

That brings to a total of nine counties approved from individual assistance by the federal government. On Wednesday the president approved the declaration for Beaufort, Carteret, Craven, Dare, Hyde, Pamlico and Tyrrell counties.

The governor also said the state has asked the federal government for 20 counties to become eligible for federal aid so local governments can be compensated for removing debris and making infrastructure repairs.

Damage caused by the storm in eastern North Carolina is already estimated by authorities at $192 million and expected to get higher.

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North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue has asked that federal officials add two more counties to the disaster declaration request for individual assistance to help those recovering from Hurricane Irene.

Perdue's office said late Wednesday it has filed the request for individual assistance for Halifax and Lenoir counties.

President Obama on Wednesday approved Perdue's initial request for individual assistance for Beaufort, Carteret, Craven, Dare, Hyde, Pamlico and Tyrrell counties.

State Emergency Management Director Doug Hoell has asked that 20 counties be added to North Carolina's federal disaster declaration request for public assistance. The public assistance program helps local governments with the costs of responding to the storm, as well as cleaning debris and repairing infrastructure.

Perdue's office says more counties may be added to both lists.

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Gov. Beverly Perdue says other North Carolina counties will added to those eligible for federal disaster aid after Hurricane Irene.

Perdue says the first seven counties listed in an initial disaster declaration Wednesday are "just the beginning." The governor told reporters during a meeting with emergency responders in Kinston that she wants federal assistance money to start flowing to the hardest hit communities as soon as possible.

A Red Cross official has told Perdue as many as 3,500 homes in North Carolina may have been destroyed or severely damaged. Gary Haynes with the Red Cross in North Carolina says that's a preliminary figure based in part on field reports from volunteers.

Perdue says getting temporary housing to devastated communities is one of her top a priorities.

Residents and businesses in those seven counties can contact FEMA at 800-621-FEMA for assistance.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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President Obama has signed a disaster declaration for North Carolina as the state recovers from Hurricane Irene.

The White House said Wednesday that Obama had signed the order for seven counties affected when Hurricane Irene hit the state last week.

The order makes federal fund available to help with the recovery in Beaufort, Carteret, Craven, Dare, Hyde, Pamlico and Tyrrell counties.

The declaration authorizes grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property loss and other programs to help people and businesses affected by the storm.

Gov. Beverly Perdue had submitted the request for the declaration on Monday.

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