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Hunt Holds Out-of-Session Meeting with Lawmakers to Discuss Rebuilding After Floyd

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RALEIGH — In an unprecedented move,Governor Jim Huntcalled onstate lawmakersto meet with him out of session Wednesday. Hunt wants to make sure flood victims in eastern North Carolina are getting the help they need to rebuild.

The governor invited all 170 members of the state House and Senate to his home to discuss the estimated $5.3 billion in destruction caused by Hurricane Floyd.

During the handshakes and breakfast, many of the lawmakers voiced their concerns. "How do we ensure that we get our citizens out of those shelters, into immediate temporary housing," saidRep. Thomas Wright. "That's a big issue down my way."

Legislators met behind closed doors at the governor's mansion, with emergency management officials leading the briefing.

"The financial purse strings of this state are dictated by the 170 members of the House and Senate, and they're the partners in everything the executive branch does," said Richard Moore, secretary ofCrime Control and Public Safety. "We have to make sure they're informed, and they're comfortable [with the] steps we're taking."

The governor and lawmakers called the meeting a success.

"We have had a good discussion about this, and I have said to the legislature that I think we need to take bold steps," Hunt said. "We are going to need to provide large sums of money in order to help North Carolina come back."

Senate President Pro-Tem Marc Basnightagrees and wants all lawmakers involved. "It is absolutely critically important that we organize in such a fashion -- non-partisan -- and that's something that we're accomplishing now."

The speaker of the housebelieves public involvement will be crucial to the effort. "One of the main tasks that we have is keeping this before all of the people of our state, because it's going to take all of the people of our state, from the mountains to the Piedmont to the coast, to deal with these problems," said Rep. Jim Black.

An estimated 50,000 homes have been damaged or destroyed. Fewer than one percent of the people whose homes were destroyed had flood insurance.

Lawmakers say the availability of affordable housing will be their biggest challenge in the months and years ahead. To deal with that, they are looking at grants for construction of new affordable housing. They also want to eliminate labor costs by using inmates and volunteers whenever possible.

About 60,000 people have already registered forFEMAassistance.