RALEIGH — The state legislature voted unanimously Monday to spend approximately $850 million for Hurricane Florence relief in storm-battered eastern North Carolina and allocated $398.4 million of that amount.

The $850 million includes $56.5 million appropriated two weeks ago. The remaining money to be allocated, $394.5 million, will be earmarked later as the state gets more information on the storm losses and where assistance is needed.

"This will not be the last bill we do," said Republican state Sen. Brent Jackson of Sampson County, which is in the Florence disaster area.

The legislature is scheduled to next meet on Nov. 27, and anticipates allocating more of the $850 million then.

The 2018 Hurricane Florence Disaster Recovery Act approved on Monday includes money to repair and rebuild homes, schools and farms. It is to help clear debris and repair roads and bridges.

"Since the storm, I’ve been in constant communication with New Hanover County leaders and my colleagues in the Senate to make sure everything that can be done is being done," the bill's sponsor, N.C. Sen. Michael Lee, R-New Hanover, said in a statement. "The K-12 schools in my district, as well as UNCW, need immediate state aid to continue repairs."

Residents suffering storm losses are to get money to help them buy food and medicine, and seek out mental health care.

It has funding for small business loans and offers compensation to commercial fishermen dealing with decreased harvests and damaged or destroyed equipment.

"This is a great start, a great beginning, to get us where we need to go,” said Republican state Rep. Michael Speciale of New Bern. Speciale represents Beaufort, Craven and  Pamlico counties, three of the harder hit communities.

Hurricane Florence lingered over North Carolina for six days in September, battering the eastern side of the state with high winds and devastating flooding. Some communities still were trying to recover from 2016’s Hurricane Matthew when Florence arrived.

The office of Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper preliminarily estimated last week that the state faces $12.7 billion in recovery costs from Florence.

Following complaints that aid money has been slow to reach victims of Hurricane Matthew over the past two years, the legislation creates a new Office of Recovery and Resiliency.

Over the next three years, this 45-person office is to coordinate the disaster recovery effort, provide public outreach, hire vendors for project management and audit and report on the results of the efforts. The Florence package allocates $2 million to create the Recovery and Resiliency office.

Most of the money for Florence relief is coming from a $2 billion cash reserve the state has built up in recent years to deal with disasters and other unexpected expenses.

Known as the Rainy Day Fund, the reserve allows the state to provide disaster recovery assistance without a tax increase and without cutting other programs, state Republican Rep. Nelson Dollar of Cary said.

The Florence Recovery Act now awaits the governor's signature.

"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," Cooper said in a statement. "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."

Cooper, according to the statement, intends to sign the bill into law soon.

The spending plan advanced on Monday has $65 million for the N.C. Department of Public Safety. This is a match of federal dollars to provide $260 million in federal disaster assistance programs.

Another $65 million to the N.C. Department of Transportation is for a 25 percent match of federal emergency management funds. With the federal dollars, $260 million is to pay for repair and debris removal in the state’s road and transportation network.

The bill includes $70 million for agriculture — $20 million to match federal assistance and $50 million for other farm recovery activities and repairs.

"Aid from the General Assembly has been quicker than any disaster relief in memory. It’s appropriate that we’re taking historic action in response to a historic storm," Lee said in his statement.

For education, the legislation includes:

• $60 million to repair and renovate damaged public schools.

• $30 million to repair the campuses of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, the University of North Carolina at Pembroke and Fayetteville State University.

• $5 million for repairs at community colleges, plus $8.5 million to make up for reduced tuition revenues stemming from reduced enrollment because of  the storm.

• $8 million to help college students who had losses from the storm remain enrolled in the state’s community colleges and public and private universities.

Republican state Rep. Bob Muller, who serves coastal Pender and Onslow counties, said schools in his district still are closed and have mold and mildew that needs to be cleared. The storm heavily damaged many of his constituents’ homes, he said.

The bill has $33 million for several housing assistance and repair programs. It has $28 million to assist local governments with recovery.

Some lawmakers from storm-affected areas said they would like to see more efforts than this package included.

The state needs to clear debris from waterways in an effort to reduce potential future flooding, said Democratic state Rep. Charles Graham from hard-hit Robeson County.

State Rep. Elmer Floyd of Fayetteville said North Carolina should look at building canals to capture and move high water past areas that have been prone to flooding. Floyd said that might have helped as the Cape Fear River in Fayetteville rose to near-record heights and flooded nearby property, he said.

Paul Woolverton can be reached at pwoolverton@fayobserver.com, 910-486-3512 and 910-261-4710.