- Associated Press - Friday, October 28, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Gov. Pat McCrory is signaling that he’s leaning toward calling a special legislative session to address disaster relief funding following Hurricane Matthew, with plans for more details next week about how North Carolina will pursue federal assistance to recover and rebuild.

A news release from McCrory’s office Friday, after the governor toured recovery efforts in Fayetteville, said there will be an upcoming announcement about the next steps to address disaster relief funding that would include a special session. The governor made similar comments Thursday during a tour of Lumberton.

During a special session, “we can go back to the legislature and specifically request how much money we need and how that money should be used, but we want to make sure it’s done the right way,” McCrory said at a Lumberton news conference.

Two weeks ago, as river levels continued to rise, McCrory and Republican legislative leaders agreed there was no need to reconvene immediately, despite calls by Democrats to do so. McCrory had said emergency officials told him there was enough money available relief funds to cover immediate needs and repairs through early next year. The regular two-year session of the General Assembly begins in January.

But needs are becoming clearer as damage assessments come in more quickly than anticipated, McCrory spokesman Josh Ellis said. The governor had said he would rely on experts to make any recommendation on calling the legislature back to Raleigh.

Earlier this month, state officials had estimated the flooding has caused $1.5 billion in damage to 100,000 homes, businesses and government buildings. Insurance and federal, state and local governments are expected to pay for this and other damage and cleanup to varying degrees.

Lawmakers met in late 1999 in a special session to approve an $836 million recovery package for Hurricane Floyd. That storm’s flooding has been compared with Matthew’s destruction. The package included money to put displaced residents in permanent housing, match federal disaster spending, and help small business owners and farmers.

One-third of the post-Floyd package was paid for using the state’s savings. The legislature now has $1.6 billion in its reserve fund but would have to pass legislation to authorize McCrory to use any of it for Hurricane Matthew relief.

Any special session also would likely adjust the school calendar law, Ellis said. Schools that were shuttered for weeks or damaged severely would be unable to meet minimum hourly or daily requirements for instructional days this school year.

Senate leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, said Friday in a release “we look forward to reviewing his specific recommendations concerning long-term recovery needs.”

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