The North Carolina Senate on Wednesday unanimously passed a $200 million disaster relief package proposed by Gov. Pat McCrory to help families and communities across North Carolina recover from the devastating effects of Hurricane Matthew and wildfires that have ravaged the state since October.
House Bill 2 – the Disaster Recovery Act of 2016 is the first step in addressing the state’s immediate needs and includes:
- Housing: $29 million to provide short-term housing for areas not covered by FEMA, along with grants for rental assistance, construction of new rental units and repairs to damaged homes. Close to 4,500 homes were destroyed as a result of Hurricane Matthew, and over 1,600 families are still living out of hotel rooms.
- Community infrastructure: $41 million to help local governments fund repairs to infrastructure, trash pick-up, river maintenance and other local needs.
Natural resources: nearly $38 million to help the agriculture community respond and recover from disasters across the state.
- $24 million to aid in the wildfire response in western North Carolina.
- Almost $14 million to help rebuild farm roads, ponds, dams and agricultural facilities hit hard by the hurricane.
- Direct aid: more than $75 million used primarily to partner with the federal government in providing nearly $600 million combined state and federal direct aid to North Carolinians.
- Economic development and stabilization: $5 million to help impacted businesses get back on their feet and revitalize the communities hit hardest by the storm.
- Planning: over $11 million to help local communities implement sustainable rebuilding plans that safeguard against major destruction during future disasters.
Lawmakers plan to assess any remaining unmet needs in 2017 and again in 2018.
The bill also allows the governor to waive certain Division of Motor Vehicle fees for citizens impacted by the hurricane. And it provides calendar flexibility to schools forced to cancel days in the aftermath of the storm. Affected schools will make up two missed days, while the rest will be forgiven.
After North Carolina experienced some of the worst natural disasters in state history in October and November, Gov. McCrory took charge of the state’s short-term emergency response and long-term recovery efforts. His Hurricane Matthew Recovery Committee held five regional meetings around the state to hear the needs of disaster victims. North Carolina's congressional delegation also secured an additional $300 million federal appropriation to support hurricane recovery efforts.
“Gov. McCrory has shown tremendous leadership in guiding North Carolina’s recovery from these devastating natural disasters, and our partners in Congress have come through with federal support. The Senate is proud to join their efforts to deliver critical aid to North Carolina families and communities in need – which is just the first step toward rebuilding and making our state even stronger than before,” said Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Rockingham.)
Thanks to historic tax reform and conservative budgeting by the governor and legislature, the relief package will be paid from two well-funded sources. The state’s budget surplus will fund the first $100 million in aid, while the remaining roughly $100 million will come from the Rainy Day Fund.