Gov. Cooper sends $25 million in lottery funds to fix NC schools damaged by Florence

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Governor Roy Cooper announced Monday that he’s sending $25 million from the North Carolina Education Lottery Fund to speed up repairs to K-12 schools damaged by Hurricane Florence.

Florence damaged schools across the state last month, with Cooper saying Monday that several school districts remain closed, keeping more than 130 schools serving nearly 90,000 out of class. Cooper said the lottery funds will help because affected school districts have used up most of their contingency funds and need immediate help to repair roofs, flooring and electrical wiring, to eradicate mold and mildew and to replace furniture to get schools reopened.

“Students need to get back to learning and educators need to get back to teaching, but many school districts can’t afford the repairs schools need,” Cooper said in a news release. “The lives of thousands of students, teachers and families are on hold and they need our help to recover.”

Cooper said the emergency funds will be administered by the state Department of Public Instruction. He said priority will be given to district and charter schools in Brunswick, Craven, Duplin, Jones, New Hanover, Onslow, Pender and Robeson counties that have immediate repair needs and are not currently in operation.

Cooper said some of the repairs should be reimbursable by federal disaster recovery funds. Transferring the money now gives schools quicker help and allows them to retain contractors to speed repairs, according to Cooper.

Last week, Eileen Townsend, section chief of the school insurance fund at DPI, said it has reserved $40 million to deal with the claims that are still coming in. She said the amount is higher than the $14 million in losses after Hurricane Matthew in 2016 because of all the wind and flooding damage from Florence.

Last week, legislators approved bipartisan emergency relief legislation to deal with the storm. Lawmakers said they’d address school facility needs once more information is available.