NCGA Appropriates $398M for Hurricane Relief, Includes $60M for School Facilities
Elizabeth Yelverton | NCASA Legal Affairs and Policy Manager
The North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA) allocated $398 million from the Hurricane Florence Disaster Recovery Fund on Monday, including $60 million to repair and rebuild school facilities. Senate Bill 3: “2018 Hurricane Florence Disaster Recovery Act” was quickly signed into law by Governor Cooper on Tuesday. Legislators passed the bipartisan recovery package during a second special session on Hurricane Florence relief, as an addition to the $56.5 million approved by the legislature during its first special session for hurricane relief on October 2. The recent appropriation brings the total recovery package amount to almost $850 million, with $394 million remaining to be allocated. For comparison, the legislature allocated $200 million for Hurricane Matthew two months after the storm.
The $60 million appropriated for public school facilities directs money to the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) “for repair and renovation of facilities damaged by Hurricane Florence for local school administrative units, lab schools, and the Innovative School District,” according to the Joint Appropriations Committee Report.
State Superintendent Mark Johnson announced on Tuesday that DPI has begun disbursing the $60 million to damaged schools in the 28 federal disaster declared counties “on a pro-rata basis, according to districts’ stated need for funds to reopen closed schools.” This $60 million includes $25 million from the N.C. Education Lottery Fund designated last week by Governor Cooper, as well as $35 million appropriated by the General Assembly during Monday’s special session.
In addition to providing funding for public school facilities, the Act also directs the State Board of Education to adjust the average daily membership (ADM) of public school units in federal disaster declared counties, in order to account for membership decreases resulting from the hurricane in the 2018-2019 school year. The Act directs the Board to base ADM in these impacted schools on the highest of the first four months’ ADM. In regards to increases in ADM, the bill encourages LEAs to apply for additional funding “to address needs related to extraordinary ADM growth due to an influx of displaced students as a result of Hurricane Florence.”
Governor Cooper announced his proposed plan for Hurricane Florence relief last week, in which he identified $96.8 million in unmet impact to public school facilities and equipment, based on preliminary estimates. In response to the Act passed by the legislature on Monday, Governor Cooper stated,
“I appreciate legislators responding quickly and taking this initial step to help North Carolinians recover from this devastating storm, particularly in the areas of education and the federal match. However, we must continue to work together to provide more for affordable housing and farmers as well as to make real investments to ensure clean water and to lessen the impacts of future storms on our homes, roads, businesses and water infrastructure."
The legislature plans to meet for a third special session for Hurricane Florence relief and recovery on November 27 to reassess recovery needs and further allocate remaining hurricane relief funds.