N.C. Lawmakers consider $200 million Disaster Recovery Act

Eamon Queeney—The North State Journal
North Carolina House of Representatives members work in the opening of a special session of the General Assembly in the House Chambers of the Legislative Building in Raleigh

RALEIGH — The N.C. General Assembly is weighing The Disaster Recovery Act of 2016 on Tuesday in a special legislative session called by Governor Pat McCrory. The measure was in the House appropriation committee on Tuesday afternoon where McCrory appealed to lawmakers to pass the bill and it’s $200 million price tag. It appropriates the money for counties that were declared a major disaster area from damage caused by flooding from Hurricane Matthew and wildfires in the western counties of the state. “It’ll be a nice winter day here in Raleigh but people across this state are still hurting as we speak,” McCrory said to the committee. “I ask that you have a sense of urgency and compassion to get them the help they deserve.”Legislative action was requested by McCrory in the wake of damage from the natural disasters. More than $100 million is requested from the state’s Savings Reserve Account (commonly referred to as the Rainy Day Fund), and another 100 million from the General Fund. The request would allot the money for specific purposes:$20 million to the Housing Trust Fund for means-tested housing projects, serving low-income residents in natural disasters$9 million for the Division of Emergency Management to provide short term housing for affected people$11.5 million for the Division of Emergency Management for redevelopment planning in affected areas $66.2 million for the state matching requirement to receive federal disaster assistance$10 million for future emergencies to be put in the State Emergency Response and disaster Relief Fund$5 million for the Golden L.E.A.F. Foundation for small business grants in affected areas$20 million to the Golden L.E.A.F. Foundation for county infrastructure repairs like water, sewer, sidewalks and other projects$10 million for the Department of Commerce to provide county infrastructure grants$10 million to the Department of Environmental Quality for infrastructure cleanup including wastewater and drinking treatment system repairs and grants to counties for failure of burial site$37.9 million to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for wildlife response, timber restoration, debris removal, and dam repairs.$1 million to volunteer fire departments through the Department of Insurance for repair of damage$250 thousand for the Department of Commerce to assess the needs of small business affected by the disastersThe measure makes clear that the money set aside in this legislation is not available for the governor, McCrory now and Governor-elect Roy Cooper after the first of the year, to use as a supplement in other areas of government. “Because the General Assembly will convene shortly after this bill is enacted and has continuing authority to address the state’s disaster relief needs, the General Assembly finds that broad Executive expenditure flexibility over the funds appropriated is not warranted,” the bill reads.The measure requires the governor to set up advisory boards to advise the agencies with disaster funds and requires that any money not spent be considered savings and not rolled into the state’s General Fund.Other details in the bill include deeming eastern public schools that missed more than two days in October or western schools that missed more than two days in November due to disaster be allowed to not make up those days. It also requires the Office of State Budget and Management to report back to General Assembly committees and Fiscal Research on a monthly basis on the implementation of the bill.