Politics & Government

NC leaders announce how much they’ll spend on Hurricane Florence recovery

‘Everything I looked at just made me cry,’ says Wilmington resident after Florence

Betty Coleman, 71, has lived in Wilmington her entire life. Two trees fell on her trailer right before Hurricane Florence made landfall in Wilmington, and now she has to leave.
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Betty Coleman, 71, has lived in Wilmington her entire life. Two trees fell on her trailer right before Hurricane Florence made landfall in Wilmington, and now she has to leave.

Legislative leaders on Saturday announced an agreement to set aside nearly $800 million in new funding for Hurricane Florence recovery efforts.

The commitment reflects uncommonly fast cooperation among the Republican-controlled legislature and the Democratic governor.

Gov. Roy Cooper on Thursday proposed spending $750 million immediately and $1.5 billion over several years, focused primarily on housing, agriculture and businesses.

The new commitment by General Assembly leaders is on top of $50 million lawmakers approved earlier this month, the leaders announced in a statement emailed to the news media. Most of the additional money would come from the state’s rainy day fund, and most would be spent immediately, they said.

The leaders signed off on Cooper’s proposal to establish a new Office of Recovery and Resiliency to ensure maximum federal and other aid is available to North Carolina. The office would be funded by $20 million each of the next five years.

The statement by Senate leader Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore indicated key budget legislators and fiscal staff met with state Budget Director Charles Perusse to go over Cooper’s plan in detail. They said Perusse considers the relief efforts to be funded for the next five years.

Further analysis of the needs could change the funding levels, they said.

Cooper has said private insurance and federal funding are also needed to help with an estimated $13 billion in damage.

Eastern North Carolina residents and community activists held a press conference Tuesday to call on state legislators to increase disaster relief spending after Hurricane Florence.

Berger and Moore praised Perusse and his staff for collaborating with lawmakers.

“This has been an exceptionally fast timeline to approve funding relief for storm victims,” Berger and Moore said in a joint statement. “We appreciate the governor’s ongoing recovery efforts and look forward to working together on the implementation of North Carolina’s (fourth) emergency response package since 2016.”

Hurricane Matthew hit the state two years ago, Hurricane Florence in September and Tropical Storm Michael this week. Many people are still waiting for approved state funding from Matthew: $124 million has been dispersed, $115 million has been awarded and $121 million remains available from the $360 million allocated since 2016, they said.

Legislators are due back in session on Monday to vote on the package.

“I haven’t seen this level of collaboration among state leaders in a long time,” Sen. Harry Brown, a Republican from Jacksonville and a key budget writer, said in the statement. “This bill is a continuation of the good faith shown by everybody.”

House budget writer Rep. Nelson Dollar, a Cary Republican, said in the statement that he was pleased immediate repairs to schools is a top priority in the package.

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