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League Bulletin

October 19, 2018

WHAT HAPPENED: The General Assembly regrouped this week to approve $800 million in relief from the historic damage Hurricane Florence left the state.
WHAT IT MEANS: Myriad stakeholders affected by the storm, from local governments to commercial fishermen to students and more, are to benefit from the funds that add to the $56 million the state approved in the prior week for a total exceeding $850 million. Rebuilding North Carolina is a primary goal, but again the funds are programmed to relieve a broad catalog of impacts.
ON TAP: State officials will set policy and plans on exactly how to distribute portions of the money, which is set to pair with federal relief aid, over the coming months. Roughly half of the approved total can be spent right away; the other half is in reserve for needs ahead, and the legislature may put attention to that when it reconvenes in November.
THE SKINNY: While the legislature and Gov. Roy Cooper have often been at odds, the response to Hurricane Florence represented a setting-aside of differences. The legislature's approved relief package didn't mirror the governor's recommendation, but just prior to signing it into law Governor Cooper applauded lawmakers for swift work.

The heroic efforts of local government employees across southeastern North Carolina responding to Hurricanes Florence and Michael and assisting the victims of the storm captured the attention of the entire nation. Often missing from news stories is that these same employees – first responders, utility workers, emergency management officials and others – are suffering significant losses affecting their homes and belongings. That’s where Hometown Care comes in – we want to help city and town workers affected by Hurricane Florence and future disasters. And we need YOUR help! Please donate to the Hometown Care Disaster Relief Fund to take care of the municipal employees who work so hard to take care of us. ​
The Hometown Care Disaster Relief Fund​ has been created by the NCLM Local Leadership Foundation to provide personal grants directly to employees of North Carolina cities and towns who are members of the NC League of Municipalities. North Carolina local government employees who have suffered significant uninsured losses from Hurricane Florence, Hurricane Michael and other natural disasters may apply. We want to help as many municipal employees as possible who were harmed by North Carolina disasters. And while we recognize that this effort will not come close to making up for the sacrifices and losses of these valuable employees, we hope that it helps. We want to be a part of the Hometown Care they deserve. NCLM's Hometown Care web hub​ includes a downloadable flyer and grant application. 

The $850 million Hurricane Florence recovery package approved by the General Assembly includes relief for local governments impacted by the September storm. Among allocations are $20 million in infrastructure-rehab money that Golden LEAF will provide local governments to "repair and replace vehicles, equipment, and facilities." (Scroll down to the next article for a link to the online application form.) The agency may also distribute money to local governments and water/sewer authorities for help with water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure that Florence damaged or destroyed. A separate $8 million is in the package for the Department of Public Safety to "assist financially-distressed local governments with staff support and to provide one-time emergency funds for local governments in disaster areas that need immediate cash flow assistance," budget documents state. Of the size of the relief package, House Appropriations Senior Chairman Rep. Nelson Dollar said: "This legislation ... is an historic response to an historic crisis." 
Click here for the recovery bill and here for a companion report itemizing the numerous allocations. Gov. Roy Cooper signed the legislation on Tuesday and commended​ the General Assembly's pace. "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." The governor added: "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 ongoing storm recovery efforts will include more applicant briefings in coming days for FEMA Public Assistance debris remove and emergency protective measures relief, with meetings planned for Elizabethtown and Raeford on Oct. 25 and Jefferson on Oct. 29. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service is accepting requests for assistance to help communities protect eligible infrastructure such as roads, bridges, housing and businesses from erosion and watershed hazards caused by Hurricane Florence. The deadline to request assistance through the Emergency Watershed Protection Program is Nov. 15. Learn more about the program here.
In addition, with the General Assembly’s passage of $800 million in additional state hurricane assistance this week, the Golden Leaf Foundation has been provided $20 million for grants to local governments to repair and replace vehicles, equipment, facilities, and water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure. You can find the online application form and information about the program here and answers to frequently asked questions here
The North Carolina Department of Commerce has also announced that the state has received a federal grant to provide temporary employment to address hurricane damage and administration needs as a result of that damage. The grants for those jobs may last up to 12 months, and municipalities are among the entities eligible. There is no match required for organizations that meet eligibility requirements. The department says interested entities can contact their local Workforce Development Board of local NCWorks Career Center to learn more, and also visit​.

Want to your League membership to have a direct impact on advocacy and policy efforts at the NC General Assembly? Then be sure to register to attend​​ the 2018 Advocacy Goals Conference, Nov. 29, 2018 at the Raleigh Convention Center. The registration cost has been lowered to $35 for the first municipal official and then $10 for each additional registrant from the same town. By attending the conference, your municipality will have a voice and a vote as League members discuss and decide upon the issues that are prioritized when talking with state legislators and policy makers in 2019-2020. In order to have the most representative set of advocacy goals, we need as many cities and towns represented as possible. Register today to make sure your town is represented! Also available to attendees is the chance to meet with several disaster-focused organizations – meet one-on-one with representatives to address your specific Hurricane Florence questions or gather information about how to make sure your community is ready for the next emergency situation.

The expansive Hurricane Florence recovery measure approved this week at the General Assembly included a moratorium on fees for building permits, inspections and certificates of occupancy in certain jurisdictions. The UNC School of Government's NC Local Government Law blog has a detailed post, explaining: "In addition to appropriating disaster relief funds, Section 5.16 of SB3​ imposes a moratorium on fees associated with permits, inspections, or certificates of occupancy for any commercial or residential projects involving construction, reconstruction, alteration, repair, movement to another site, removal, or demolition of manufactured homes, buildings, dwellings or other structures damaged as a direct result of Hurricane Florence. The moratorium applies to fees charged by the N.C. Department of Insurance as well as cities and counties designated under a Hurricane Florence major Presidential disaster declaration." The moratorium doesn't apply to jurisdictions that weren't included in a presidential disaster declaration. Click here for the full post.

The Carolina Public Press has published a lengthy piece spotlighting the struggles of local water and sewer systems, which were exacerbated by Hurricane Florence after municipalities already faced challenges following Hurricane Matthew in 2016. "Dozens more were underwater before either storm hit, with shrinking economies and populations that make it difficult for them to cover routine expenses and service the debt on their water and sewer infrastructure," the article says before coverage of a recent legislative committee exploring the subject. This Bulletin has covered numerous meetings of this committee; refer to the Aug. 24 edition for the most recent. At the time, committee co-chair Rep. Chuck McGrady​ said he hoped members would focus on ways to assist systems that faced financial difficulties, as well as ways to assure clean water. Committee members are also looking at specific water/sewer systems under financial stress. Discussions in general have included consolidations and mergers to shore up troubled operations where feasible. League Director of Public Affairs Scott Mooneyham is quoted in the Carolina Public Press piece: “We believe that financial incentives from the state and federal level, to encourage more voluntary consolidation, represent the only viable means to address the problem,” he said. “Significant incentives are required so that non-troubled systems and their customers are not harmed. Financially sound systems would not be acting in the interest of their ratepayers/taxpayers by taking on the problems of troubled systems without financial help.” Click here for the full article.

The N.C. Department of Commerce and the Small Business Technology Center have joined with state and federal entities to develop an extensive list of resources for local businesses that Hurricane Florence impacted. “Small businesses are the economic engine for our local communities. Business owners face more than physical damage to their place of work after a storm like Hurricane Florence, and we are working to simplify the recovery process so businesses can get relief quickly and efficiently,” Gov. Roy Cooper said in a news release about the resource list. It's available at​.

The N.C. Department of Transportation wants public input to help shape the state's next long-range transportation plan, NC Moves 2050. "NC Moves 2050 is NCDOT’s 30-year transportation blueprint focused on creating a more responsive, diverse and inclusive transportation system to keep people and freight moving safely and efficiently across the state," says a news release asking the public to weigh in until Nov. 30. Click here for full details and links.