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Easley Putting More Floyd Money Into Escrow Account

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Gov. Mike Easley said Monday he will try toprotect Hurricane Floyd relief money from legislative budgetwriters by putting $176 million of it into a special escrowaccount.

The account has $120 million remaining of funds that Easley hadused to meet a $1.6 billion shortfall in the 2001-02 fiscal year.

It's unclear whether Easley's action Monday would have anypractical effect on lawmakers writing a budget for the currentfiscal year. The Legislature can appropriate any money it deemsnecessary to balance the budget.

But Easley said putting the money aside will make sure it'sspent on Hurricane Floyd recovery needs. "That way we don't haveto worry about the Legislature appropriating it and using it forother causes," he said.

House budget writers went ahead last week and plugged the $120million in the account into their proposed state spending plan.

Rep. David Redwine, D-Brunswick, a co-chair of the HouseAppropriations Committee, said the House's $14 billion budget plan- expected to rolled out this week - will also include $50 millionpulled from hurricane relief money.

Easley doesn't want either fund touched.

"I'm trying to remind people that the problem is not fixed,that the recovery is still in process," he said Monday. "We oweit not only to the victims, but also to our reputation as a stateto meet our promises and obligations."

The governor made his announcement during a tour ofhurricane-damaged areas in Pender and Pitt counties.

Easley visited home of Cynthia Bivens in Burgaw. She showed hima kitchen that doesn't have cabinets.

"It's kind of hard for a housewife to cook with no cabinets,"she said.

Bivens said she had 43 inches of water in her house and six feetin her yard during the floods that accompanied Floyd.

She also showed the governor a bedroom that still has exposedparticle board on the floor, no walls or insulation, no closets andan exposed tub. She said she has received $6,000 from FEMA.

Easley also stopped at Sand Hill AME Methodist Church, wherepeople shouted out questions about their individual problems. Onewoman yelled, "The ones who lost everything and had to buy a newhome - are you going to help us?"

Another man yelled, "We don't understand the politics of it.All we know is we need help."

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