- Associated Press - Sunday, December 4, 2016

GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP) - With odds against his leading recovery efforts much longer, Gov. Pat McCrory wants legislators to return to work now so they can organize and fund more Hurricane Matthew relief for residents, businesses and communities.

McCrory says he’ll call the General Assembly back Dec. 13 to consider a package of programs and how to pay for them. There’s plenty in the state’s savings reserve that could cover what he’ll request, the details of which are still being worked out. McCrory’s office also confirmed late last week he would seek funding during the special session to address recent mountain wildfires.

Congress is separately considering another $600 million in additional hurricane aid McCrory already requested for things like infrastructure, farm and business repairs. Knowing how much Congress will send to North Carolina in part determines exactly how much and where the state will need to spend.

While hopeful Congress could approve his request before a special session, McCrory is ready to reconvene legislators even if it doesn’t happen in time. He said he would be meeting with state House and Senate leaders about his relief proposal.

“We think there’s at a minimum short-term action we need to take to help especially those without housing as we enter these winter months,” McCrory told The Associated Press in a brief interview in Greenville following a meeting on hurricane relief. “The longer there’s inaction, the longer there’s pain for those people impacted by this hurricane.”

State officials say October’s massive rains and resulting floods hurt 30,000 businesses and caused more than $400 million in crop losses. There were 28 storm-related deaths and the economic damage could exceed $2 billion.

The McCrory administration’s efforts to fashion short- and long-term help for the victims of the storm has occurred while the outcome of the Nov. 8 gubernatorial election held hasn’t yet been finalized amid a recount and formal protests. Unofficial results show McCrory trailing Democrat Roy Cooper by more than 10,000 votes, and the Republican incumbent is running out of paths to victory. The Legislature doesn’t begin its next regular session in earnest until Jan. 25, after the inauguration.

Talk of a special session probably “is being overshadowed by the uncertainty of the election,” said Sen. Tommy Tucker, R-Union. House and Senate leaders, however, say they’re ready to return in December and work with McCrory on a relief package.

McCrory has attended meetings of a special recovery committee he formed that’s held public hearings in five eastern North Carolina cities.

At the Greenville hearing last week, McCrory mentioned a big immediate need - permanent housing for displaced residents. A Federal Emergency Management Agency program through which about 1,500 households are living in hotels is set to expire Jan. 7, McCrory office said. While the program could be extended, McCrory doesn’t want to take a chance.

“They’ll be put out on the street, and as governor I’m not going to have that happen,” McCrory said.

With nearly half of North Carolina’s 100 counties approved for federal assistance, $80 million in federal funds already has gone to individuals harmed by the hurricane.

McCrory’s Nov. 14 federal aid request to Congress sought more than $1 billion, but FEMA already approved some of that assistance to repair roads, navigation channels, water treatment plants and parks. That reduces the total being discussed by Congress to $600 million, McCrory spokesman Graham Wilson said.

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