North Carolina lawmakers on Wednesday finalized a $201 million hurricane and wildfire relief package sought by Gov. Pat McCrory in a special session he called.
The Senate and House unanimously approved the final aid proposal, which emphasizes rental housing for more Down East families displaced by Hurricane Matthew and long-range planning for heavily damaged towns and neighborhoods. There’s also money to pay for firefighting when tens of thousands of acres burned in the mountains this fall.
The House accepted minor Senate changes to the original package before sending it to McCrory, who is expected to sign it.
“You’re showing the people of North Carolina that were impacted by this hurricane that you have not forgotten them and you’re going to do everything you can to help them,” McCrory told the Senate Appropriations Committee. “Let’s give these people something they can hold on to.”
Senate approval came after Democrats in communities damaged by Hurricane Matthew got assurances that funds would pay for more financial counselors to help people make informed decisions on aid and whether to rebuild or move.
Otherwise, “you’ve got a bunch of different programs, public and private,” Sen. Angela Bryant, D-Nash, said in committee. “Some people in the know will get more than enough stuff. You’ve got other people who are not as sophisticated _ maybe not as connected, not in the know. They will not get it.”
The bill’s managers in the Senate emphasized lawmakers will likely appropriate more state fund when they reconvene in early 2017. Hundreds of millions of federal dollars already have reached North Carolina or should soon in response to the historic floods. McCrory’s administration has estimated the storm’s economic impact at $2 billion.
“This bill is just the start,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Brown, R-Onslow, said on the Senate floor.
The relief package includes $29 million to pay for short-term housing for displaced residents and to build long-term rental units in flooded regions. There’s more than $66 million to match federal funds already heading to the state. A pot of $25.5 million would address the wildfire response and timber restoration.
No tax increases are required – the money is coming largely from nearly $1.6 billion in emergency reserves and higher than expected tax collections.
- Congress Approves $300M in Assistance for North Carolina Matthew Recovery
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