Raleigh, N.C. — Gov. Pat McCrory on Thursday signed a $200 million disaster recovery bill into law at the Executive Mansion in Raleigh.
The measure isn't expected to be the last work on disaster recovery. October's Hurricane Matthew caused an estimated $2 billion in damage in eastern counties. November wildfires in the western part of the state were less deadly but destroyed forest land and required thousands of hours of firefighters' time.
At least one more separate disaster recovery bill will be developed next year, lawmakers said this week, adding that the current bill represents a best estimate of what is needed until then.
McCrory's signature made the package law just two days after he visited a House budget committee and urged lawmakers to pass help quickly.
"This hurricane did not even spare the dead," McCrory told lawmakers, recalling how he saw municipal workers corralling a casket that had been washed out of the ground by Matthew.
The need for short-term housing assistance, he said, was particularly acute because federal funding for hotels would run out in early January.
"We can't have these people go out on the street during the holidays. That is not the North Carolina way," McCrory said.
After signing the bill into law, McCrory said the storm taught state leaders "valuable lessons for the future."
"This bill will provide some immediate assistance to citizens as they recover, especially during the Christmas holidays and winter months. This is the first step in long-term recovery efforts," he said.
Senators generally praised the bill as a good "bridge" until the fuller scope of disaster needs were more fully known next year. Particularly with regard to cost from the hurricane, Sen. Harry Brown, R-Onslow, said that reliable tallies for the total costs and needs won't be available until the spring.
Sen. Dan Blue, D-Wake, called the measure "a reasonable start," but he did ask that Democrats be more involved in the second phase of the plan.
The array of programs available to help hurricane survivors is daunting, said Sen. Angela Bryant, D-Nash. She said the bill should have provided funding for specialists who could help people navigate their choices, particularly those who may be deciding between rebuilding or moving. Emergency management officials, she said, are applying to the federal government for that kind of help.