Hurricane Florence disaster relief plan includes help for schools

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State lawmakers on Tuesday began crafting disaster-relief legislation aimed at quickly moving millions of dollars to ensure compensation for school employees and allow schools to waive up to 20 school days in the hardest-hit counties.

Flexibility on voter registration and polling places are also part of the recovery plan.

A joint House and Senate budget committee took up the proposed legislation — House Bill 4 and Senate Bill 3 — late in the morning, and were scheduled to reconvene at 1 p.m. for votes from the full House and Senate. Legislators plan to return on Oct. 15 for additional funding consideration after state agencies are able to assess how much more money will be needed.

Legislative leaders and Gov. Roy Cooper said they are in agreement about Tuesday’s funding. Legislators said it was the quickest storm recovery response in recent memory.

“It’s always good to see partisanship and some of the crazy divisions we let ourselves get into have been put aside for everybody to work together,” House Speaker Tim Moore said on the House floor. “This special session is an example of that.”


In this Sept. 17, 2018 photo, Craven County Emergency Services Director Stanley Kite, center, discusses flooding and damage caused by Hurricane Florence with North Carolina Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, left, and Republican state House Speaker Tim Moore, right, in New Bern, N.C. Cooper has been praised by man, including Republicans, for his handling of the state’s immediate response to Florence.

Gary D. Robertson AP Photo

The plan is for the Senate to first take up the education bill and the House to take up the other bill, which would waive some motor vehicle fees, Senate leader Phil Berger said. Then both bills would cross to the other chamber for final votes.

The education portion of the recovery plan moves $6.5 million for education-related issues.

An additional $50 million will be included in the state budget in order to make the state eligible for matching federal money.

At a meeting of the Council of State in Raleigh on Tuesday morning, Cooper said the death toll from the storm has reached 39.

“We lost 39 lives. But we also saved many lives with these early evacuations and by our heroic first responders,” Cooper said. He noted that 28 counties are still operating in a state of disaster.

“This was an unprecedented disaster and it requires an unprecedented response,” he said, adding that “the cooperation I’ve seen has also been unprecedented.”

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Staff writer Paul A. Specht contributed