Policy Watch Investigates

Policy Watch Investigates

Environment Policy Watch Investigates Top Story

HUD Inspector General: No “reasonable assurance” that ReBuild NC properly spent $2.5 million in Hurricane Matthew disaster relief

A new federal Inspector General's report found that ReBuild NC couldn't provide "reasonable assurance" that $2.5 million in Hurricane Matthew disaster relief funds had been "properly spent," according to an audit dated Sept. 16 and published by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. If the state can't provide documentation for those expenditures, it must repay those funds to HUD.

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Environment News Policy Watch Investigates Top Story

Hurricane survivors testify before legislative oversight committee, unveiling the truth about ReBuild NC’s bungled disaster relief program

They arrived with folded papers pulled from their pockets. Some came carrying folders that brimmed with documents neatly arranged in binder clips. Others arrived empty-handed, but hoped to leave with answers. With scores more watching in person and online, survivors of hurricanes Matthew and Florence spoke before a state government oversight committee Wednesday about the injustices they have endured – a direct result of the bungled disaster relief program run by the NC Office of Recovery and Resiliency, also known as ReBuild NC. 

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Defending Democracy News Policy Watch Investigates Top Story

Information can’t keep up with misinformation about NC voting machines  

Commissioners’ meetings in Surry County are a showcase of election conspiracy theories where distrust of the machines that count ballots plays a starring role   This story is part of a project called Democracy Day, in which newsrooms across the country are shining a light on threats to democracy.  The northwestern North Carolina county on the Virginia border is probably best known as the home of Mount Airy, the birthplace of Andy Griffith and the inspiration for Mayberry in his eponymous television show from the 1960s. This year, Surry County has been a stop on the circuit for prominent election deniers who falsely maintain that votes were engineered to have President Joe Biden win in 2020. 

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Environment News Policy Watch Investigates Top Story

508 years: The cumulative amount of time hurricane survivors have been displaced from their homes

ReBuild NC also revises -- upward -- expenditures on motels, other temporary housing for hurricane survivors 508 years or 185,522 days: That’s the total amount of time spent displaced for the 1,774 households receiving temporary relocation assistance from ReBuild NC’s homeowner disaster relief program ReBuild NC, whose formal name is the NC Office of Recovery and Resiliency, sent the information to Policy Watch, which requested the figures under public records law. 

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Congress Defending Democracy News Policy Watch Investigates Top Story

Election officials can’t access federal funding for security as violent threats mount

Colorado’s election officials, like so many across the country, faced a surge of violent threats after the 2020 election.  Federal authorities are prosecuting a man who pled guilty to threatening a Colorado election official on Instagram, where he wrote: “Do you feel safe? You shouldn’t.” And Colorado police arrested a man accused of calling Secretary of State Jena Griswold and saying that “the angel of death is coming for her.”

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Environment Policy Watch Investigates Top Story

Mountaire chicken slaughter plant overwhelming Siler City wastewater treatment facility, which has incurred 80 violations, $110K in fines

State has imposed a moratorium on the Siler City facility for chronic noncompliance, preventing new sewer connections for new industry, housing Downstream from the Siler City wastewater treatment plant, sickness had beset the Rocky River. At least 30 fish, including the Eastern shiner and some species of chub, "were observed with lesions and appeared stressed," Tim Savidge, an aquatic biologist wrote in his field notes to the NC Wildlife Resources Commission. "Gasping, irregular swimming, etc."

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Health News Policy Watch Investigates Top Story

Fentanyl in NC: An epidemic within the opioid epidemic

A year ago this month, Barb Walsh was enjoying a feeling of pride for which every parent longs. Sophia, the second of her four daughters, had come through the COVID-19 pandemic, graduating from Appalachian State University’s business school in 2020 and getting a good job with Milwaukee Tool. Driven, competitive and self-sufficient, Sophia was never the sort of kid her mother had to worry about.

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News Policy Watch Investigates Top Story

PW special report: NC treasurer’s love for cash in the pension fund hobbled returns during the stock market boom  

State Treasurer Dale Folwell refers to himself as the “Keeper of the Public Purse.” And since he was elected to the job that includes managing pension funds for state and local government employees, Folwell has been stuffing that purse with cash.  Under Folwell’s direction, the pension fund holds more of its money in cash than the department’s own guidelines direct and has considerably higher cash holdings than similar public pension funds. North Carolina’s pension fund is among the 10 largest public pensions in the country. None of the other nine hold close to as great a proportion of their assets in cash as North Carolina does, according to their most recent financial reports.  

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Environment News Policy Watch Investigates Top Story

ReBuild NC spent $10.6 million to house Hurricane Matthew survivors who have languished in motels — some for years

ReBuild NC has spent $10.64 million on motels, moving and storage unit expenses in three years for displaced Hurricane Matthew survivors, as construction and administrative delays have kept people from returning to their homes. The figures were included in Temporary Relocation Assistance (TRA) data provided by ReBuild NC, also known as the NC Office of Recovery and Resiliency.

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Defending Democracy News Policy Watch Investigates Top Story

State elections board rejects NC GOP signature matching request for absentee ballots 

The NC Board of Elections, in a 3-2 party line vote, rejected state Republicans’ request for signature verification on absentee ballots.   Republicans wanted local elections officials to be able to compare voters’ signatures on their registration cards against signatures on requests for absentee ballots and on the returned ballots. 

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Environment News Policy Watch Investigates Top Story

As construction delays continue, ReBuild NC is incurring enormous costs to house displaced Hurricane Matthew survivors in motels

Displaced homeowners also finding their belongings damaged in mobile storage units; state paid for them but says it's not responsible The NC Office of Recovery and Resiliency could not produce records to Policy Watch of how much money it has spent in the last five years on motels and storage units for people displaced by Hurricane Matthew, according to a spokesperson’s email. However, based on figures for just six families, the amount likely runs into the millions of dollars.

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News Policy Watch Investigates Top Story

Monday numbers: The military history and civilian tragedy of the AR-15

Why the weapon of choice for so many mass murderers is not what a lot of its defenders would have us believe Last month, after the horrific mass shootings at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, Monday Numbers took a look at the AR-15 style semi-automatic assault rifles favored by mass shooters in America.

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Health News Policy Watch Investigates Top Story

Medicaid expansion would help people incarcerated in jails and prisons — the ‘black hole of the mental health system’

Thousands of people currently cycling in and out of jails and prisons are among the roughly 600,000 who would get health coverage under Medicaid expansion, potentially transforming North Carolina’s justice system. Dorel Clayton became unmoored after his mother died of ovarian cancer, in 2001.

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News Policy Watch Investigates Top Story

In national health care rankings, North Carolina is chronically ill

The Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit that promotes high-quality health systems, publishes a scorecard each year that ranks states on 56 benchmarks, such as healthcare access, health disparities, and quality.  The nonprofit added seven benchmarks related to COVID-19 to this year’s scorecard, including “excess deaths.”  Overall, North Carolina ranked 34th of 51. (The District of Columbia is included in the rankings with the 50 states.) North Carolina ranked better than most states in the Southeast, but lagged behind neighboring Virginia, which came in 20th. Hawaii was No. 1 and Mississippi was 51st.

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Law and the Courts News Policy Watch Investigates Top Story

“Alarmed, but not panicked”: NC experts look to what could be next for LGBTQ rights after the Dobbs ruling

When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last week, eliminating a constitutional right to abortion after nearly 50 years, the justices also fueled speculation that other established rights could be next on the chopping block. “In future cases, we should reconsider all of this court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell,” Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his concurring opinion in the Roe decision.

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Law and the Courts News Policy Watch Investigates Top Story

Transgender North Carolinians see legal victories on birth certificates, health coverage

Transgender people born in North Carolina can now change the gender marker on their birth certificates without undergoing medical transition, according to a consent judgment in a federal law suit issued Wednesday. The lawsuit, filed last year by Lambda Legal, Baker Botts LLP and Brooks Pierce McLendon Humphrey & Leonard, challenged state restrictions on how transgender North Carolinians can change their gender markers.

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