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NC Legislature Approves Additional $299M For Hurricane Relief, Including Measures For LEAs

Elizabeth Yelverton | NCASA Legal Affairs and Policy Manager

Members of the North Carolina General Assembly recently approved $299 million in additional Hurricane Florence relief, with $23.5 million to be allocated to the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) for facility repair in “local school administrative units, laboratory schools, and innovative schools.” Senate Bill 823 also allocates $1.5 million to DPI to cover damages to child nutrition supplies and equipment as a result of the hurricane. The majority of the approved funds were designated for the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Hurricane Florence Agricultural Disaster Program of 2018.

NCASA worked with legislators to also include in the bill an ADM hold harmless provision to keep principals within some affected school districts from taking a base salary cut January 1, 2019 due to lower student enrollment from displaced families. The provision allows principals to use ADM calculations from either the 2017-18 school year or the 2018-19 school year in determining ADM placement under the 2018-19 Principal Salary Schedule. According to the bill, this provision only applies to principals of schools located in major disaster declaration areas, and the school must have closed for at least 15 days due to Hurricane Florence. NCASA is continuing to advocare for expanding this hold harmless provision to assist other principals whose 2019 salary will drop due to lower ADM, and we are asking that this change occur before lawmakers conclude their current special session.

In addition, NCASA is seeking legislative approval for a broader ADM hold harmless provision for budget allocations to prevent impacted school districts from having to revert needed funding in the spring. This and other needed support for affected LEAs are included in NCASA’s “Requested Next Steps In Hurricane Relief For Schools” document that has been shared with lawmakers. 

S823 also includes a provision allowing DPI to transfer up to $350,000 from the State Public School Fund to the Education Fund, to be used “solely to support the Florence Aid to Students and Teachers of North Carolina (FAST NC) initiative to assist the State’s public schools as students and educators struggle to return to normal following Hurricane Florence and its impact.”

The bill is the third hurricane recovery bill passed by state legislators as a result of Hurricane Florence. Members of the General Assembly appropriated $56.5 million during its first special session regarding hurricane relief, and later appropriated an additional $398 million. The latest appropriation of $299 million leaves $94.7 million remaining to be appropriated from the Hurricane Florence Disaster Recovery Fund.

S823 passed the Senate yesterday and passed the House today, after being unanimously approved by members of the House Appropriations Committee. The bill will now be presented to the Governor to be signed into law.

Elizabeth Yelverton