Senate Passes Hurricane Florence Recovery Bill that will Help Struggling North Carolina Farmers

Raleigh, N.C. – The N.C. Senate on Wednesday unanimously passed legislation continuing the ongoing Hurricane Florence recovery efforts by appropriating almost $300 million more from the Hurricane Florence Disaster Recovery Fund, with much of that money going to help North Carolina farmers. 

Senate Bill 823, sponsored by Sens. Harry Brown (R-Onslow) and Brent Jackson (R-Sampson), appropriates $299,800,000 from the Hurricane Florence Disaster Recovery Fund, and $240 million of that will go towards aiding North Carolina farmers struggling to recover in the wake of Hurricane Florence. Agricultural losses in North Carolina were expected to top $1.1 billion based on initial estimates.

The rest of the money will be appropriated as follows:

·     $23,500,000 to repair and renovate K-12 public school facilities

·     $18,500,000 to match federal funding to mitigate or remediate coastal storm damage to beaches and dune systems

·     $10,000,000 to provide assistance to commercial fishing assistance

·     $5,000,000 to provide loans to small businesses affected by Hurricane Florence

·     $1,500,000 to repair or replace food, food nutrition equipment and food nutrition supplies at school facilities

·     $1,000,000 to replace equipment at courthouses and cover cost of additional court sessions due to closures during Hurricane Florence

·     $250,000 to match federal funding to remove marine debris

·     $50,000 to the Wildlife Resources Commission to study and make recommendations on ways to address the problem of abandoned and derelict vessels in waters of the state

Sens. Brown and Jackson released a joint statement on the legislation:

“From the beginning with Hurricane Florence, we moved quickly and worked with the executive branch on solutions to the numerous issues brought about by the storm. This is an ongoing process, and we remain committed to providing North Carolinians affected by the storm the help they need, especially hardworking North Carolina farmers who were particularly devastated by the storm.”

In addition to the recovery funding, the bill directs the Governor to develop a 5-year plan to replenish the funds transferred from the Savings Reserve to the Hurricane Florence Disaster Recovery Fund. Almost $850 million was deposited into the account during the two special sessions following Hurricane Florence, much of it coming from the record $2 billion savings reserve fund built up by legislative Republicans since 2011.

A floor amendment to the bill from Sen. Jackson added provisions to the bill that allow the Office of State Budget and Management (OSBM) to use up to $20 million of previously appropriated funds to provide loans to local governments in counties impacted by Hurricane Florence to help with cash flow management. The amendment also allows OSBM to use $5 of previously appropriated funds for the Back@Home program which helps individuals who were displaced by the storm.

The bill also revises and coordinates the auditing and reporting requirements for Hurricane Florence as well as Hurricane Matthew, putting it under the authority of the Office of Recovery and Resiliency, established in the wake of Hurricane Florence. Another provision of the bill ensures that principals in schools affected by the storm will not see a decrease in salary.

After this latest appropriation, almost $95 million remains in the Hurricane Florence Disaster Recovery Fund.