NC state legislators set aside partianship in passing Hurricane Florence disaster relief legislation

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wilmington storm debris
Storm debris in Wilmington (City of Wilmington Twitter feed)

North Carolina’s state legislators have put aside their partisanship in passing legislation relating to the Hurricane Florence recovery.

The storm, which caused at least 39 deaths, generated more than 30 inches of rain in some parts of the stage and, coupled with a major storm surge in coastal areas, resulted in extensive flooding.

The Republican-controlled General Assembly at a special one-day session on Oct. 2 unanimously passed two bills. Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper called for the session and is expected to sign the laws.

“The cooperation that I’ve seen has also been unprecedented and we need to keep that spirit of cooperation all together as we approach the short- and long-term recovery from this storm,” Cooper told the Council of State shortly before the session convened, according to an Associated Press report. His office and GOP legislators had conferred on Tuesday’s legislation before leaders gavelled open the session.

One bill would take about $57 million from the state’s $2 billion reserve, most to be used to provide the state’s match to federal disaster assistance programs. The US Congress is working on a preliminary federal emergency relief package to provide more than $1 billion to the state.

“The people in southeastern North Carolina need this bill. They need every dime that’s been allocated in this bill,” Sen. Danny Britt, a Robeson County Republican, said during floor debate.

The legislation also deals with school closures, because 100,000 students in eight districts have not yet returned to classes. Two Jones County schools inundated by floodwaters will have to be demolished.

“There is an incredibly amount of uncertainty in our lives,” said Sen. Michael Lee, a Republican from Wilmington, where school will resume in the first week of October.

AP reports that the General Assembly’s debate was marked by empathy for the storm’s victims. Lawmakers shared storm stories and praised first responders who watched the session from the galleries.

“It’s always good to see partisanship and some of the crazy divisions that we allow ourselves to get into get put aside for everybody to work together to try to move things forward,” House Speaker Tim Moore told colleagues. “We’re all people and we owe a duty to each other to take care of one another.”

Meanwhile, Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity says it is delaying its new construction projects in October to focus on assisting with Hurricane Florence emergency relief efforts.

Habitat staff and regular volunteers will work in partnership with Baptists on Mission (BOM) to address homeowners’ emergency needs s in New Hanover, Pender and Duplin counties. The Habitat/BOM teams will be working at disaster relief operation centers in the following locations:

“The primary activities we have engaged in are clearing trees from houses and mucking out houses that were flooded,” Cape Fear Habitat executive director Steve Spain said in a news release. “Our short-term recovery efforts include clearing debris and mold damage inside of homes so they can then begin the repair stages.”

Cape Fear Habitat’s three ReStore locations are also accepting donations — mainly appliances, furniture and building supplies — for hurricane relief efforts. All donated items must be in usable condition and not damaged by floodwaters.

If you’d like to help Cape Fear Habitat, email Chris Teeter at chris@capefearhabitat.org. For donations, email Lynne Wooten at lynne@capefearhabitat.org and to make ReStore donations, call 910-686-9800 to schedule a pickup.

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