Gov. Cooper signs COVID-19 relief bills totaling more than $1.5 billion

Gov. Cooper signs COVID-19 relief bills totaling more than $1.5 billion

RALEIGH, N.C. — Gov. Roy Cooper signed COVID-19 recovery legislation totaling nearly $1.6 billion during a bipartisan press conference Monday morning.

Cooper signed the two bills lawmakers approved Saturday to provide financial relief to the state. The General Assembly passed two bills on Saturday -- one about policy and one about funding -- to spend $1.57 billion of federal funds coming to North Carolina for coronavirus relief.

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The funding will go to expand COVID-19 testing, tracing, immediate recovery needs, and will give more access to broadband and electronic devices for remote learning opportunities.

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“I am signing into law two critical relief bills that will provide assistance to families, schools, hospitals and small businesses as our state battles COVID-19,” said Cooper. “There is more work ahead of us, and I hope the spirit of consensus behind these bills will continue.”

The General Assembly’s COVID-19 legislation includes millions of dollars for personal protective equipment, university research, testing, contact tracing, small business loans and food banks. Policy in the package included starting the next school year a week earlier, on Aug. 17, and waiving end of grade testing.

While the funding is good news for North Carolina, Cooper said the relief package was a consensus piece and that there is still more work to do.

Cooper was joined Monday by House Speaker Tim Moore, Democratic House Leader Darren Jackson, Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and Democratic Senate Leader Dan Blue.

“The General Assembly crafted a bipartisan COVID-19 relief package that puts North Carolina on the right path to recovery. Governor Cooper’s signature on these bills sends a signal to our citizens that our state is moving past this crisis and that action is being taken to address their concerns,” said Berger.

“I am proud of the work that we have done in the Senate to address the pressing needs in our state,” said Dan Blue. “I look forward to working with Senator Berger on the next COVID-19 relief package so that we can build a stronger, more resilient for all North Carolinians.”

“North Carolina is leading the nation’s recovery through bipartisan consensus for swift action to assist every community in our state affected by this pandemic. I appreciate the successful collaboration among our legislative colleagues and the Governor to provide this powerful support for North Carolinians,” said Moore.

“Citizens expect bipartisan progress and we are off to a good start. Now we need to do more for front-line workers, the unemployed, and people without health insurance,” said Jackson.

The relief package, which was passed unanimously, includes almost $1.6 billion in relief measures for critical expenditures related to public health and safety, educational needs, small business assistance, and continuity of state government operations. Of this amount, $1.4 billion has been appropriated and $150 million is set aside in a reserve fund for future local government needs.

The package also contains key policy changes to support North Carolinians as the state battles COVID-19.

HB 1043, the spending package, allocates federal funding sent to the state from the CARES Act. It includes:

  • $50 million to provide personal protective equipment and sanitation supplies
  • $25 million to support enhanced COVID-19 testing and tracing
  • $125 million in small business loans administered through the Golden LEAF Foundation
  • $50 million in health support for underserved communities including rural areas and minority communities
  • $95 million to support North Carolina hospitals
  • $20 million to support local health departments and the State Health Lab
  • $75 million for school nutrition programs
  • $70 million for summer learning programs
  • $30 million for local schools to purchase computers and other devices for students
  • $6 million for food banks
  • $9 million for rural broadband
  • $85 million for vaccine development, antibody testing, community testing, and other COVID-19-related research at Duke University, UNC-Chapel Hill, East Carolina University, Campbell University, and Wake Forest University.

Senate Bill 704 contained provisions to help North Carolinians. It includes:

  • An extension of driver’s license and registration expiration deadlines
  • Waived interest on tax payments normally due in April
  • Modifies end-of-grade testing requirements for public schools
  • Adjusts the 2020-21 K-12 public school calendar
  • Allows pharmacists to administer a COVID-19 vaccine once it is developed

“This legislation puts North Carolina on the right path to recovery,” Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue, D-Wake, House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, and House Minority Leader Darren Jackson, D-Wake, said in a release last week. “For weeks, our citizens have been anxious about their future because of this virus, and today we can assure them that action is being taken to allay their concerns.”

The bill also will go to purchasing more personal protective equipment and give attention to rural hospitals and outbreaks in nursing homes. It will expand on long-term research and development to help fight the virus as well.

Funding will also support testing for uninsured patients, rural and under-served communities, and behavioral health services.

The bills Cooper signed not only allocate money, they also amend state law and sets standards, including loosened restrictions on filing your taxes, creating a process for children who couldn't take a test like the SAT, and creating a plan for a state emergency stockpile of personal protective equipment.

Majid Amoorpour is a small business owner in Belmont, where his café is starting to see a few more customers. He received a portion of his loan, but it’s not enough to make up for a 60% loss in business.

“I’m hoping we can get the second part of our loan that can help us make it through,” he told Channel 9.

“This recovery and relief bill is the product of bipartisan collaboration to help North Carolinians return to their daily lives,” Berger, Blue, Speaker Moore and Jackson said. “Our citizens have stepped up to support each other during this unprecedented time, and now we must look ahead to getting everyone healthy and back to work safely.”

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Initially, negotiators from the North Carolina House and Senate settled on distributing slightly over $1.5 billion of the $3.5 billion that North Carolina received in the coronavirus relief law approved by Congress. But delays in resolving policy differences meant scheduled votes on final measures were delayed Friday until at least Saturday.

“I applaud the General Assembly for working quickly to pass legislation to fight COVID-19 in North Carolina. These bills were developed collaboratively, and although it’s just a first step, they are the product of a consensus approach that I hope can continue," Cooper said in a statement earlier.

Channel 9′s DaShawn Brown spoke to a woman who runs a food pantry and said this money could be the difference between survival and shutting down.

“The money we were generating was not enough, not enough to pay the bills, not to mention we just started this a few months ago,” said Majid Amoorpour.

Andrea King, with the nonprofit Esther’s Heart, has been serving food to hundreds of local students. She found the need is greater than ever.

“Wow. We knew the need was there because we have been doing it for nine years. I think this pandemic has shown us on a greater level,” said King.

Before the coronavirus pandemic hit, the nonprofit served 250 students a week. The demand has now increased to 600 a week.

“Wherever the need is, that’s where we go, and I think that’s the mindset we all should keep even after this is over,” said King.

The state’s rainy day fund of $1.2 billion came into discussion after Cooper signed the relief package. Leaders talked about the shortfall due to COVID-19 being about $4 billion.

So, state leaders still have to hash out where they’re going to get that extra money and where they’re going to spend it.

Funding highlights include:

  • $75 million for school nutrition
  • $1 million for the Department of Public Instruction to improve internet connectivity for students through the use of mobile Wi-Fi hotspots on buses
  • $11 million for the Department of Public Instruction to improve internet connectivity for students by providing internet access devices
  • $30 million for schools to purchase devices for students in response to COVID-19
  • $5 million for electronic devices for school staff in response to COVID-19
  • $4.5 million for cybersecurity
  • $10 million for student health programs
  • $70 million for summer learning programs
  • $1.48 million for enhancing the state’s learning management platform
  • $3 million for non-digital learning instructional resources
  • $15 million for exception children programs
  • $660,029 for residential schools
  • $5 million for the Department Public Instruction’s Extended Learning and Integrated Student Supports (ELISS) Grants
  • $25 million for the Community College System to respond to COVID-19 impacts
  • $44.4 million for the UNC System to respond to COVID-19 impacts
  • $20 million for independent and private colleges to respond to COVID-19 impacts
  • $85.1 million for COVID-19 research, including $29 million for the UNC Collaboratory, $20 million for Wake Forest University Health Services, $15 million for Duke University’s Human Vaccine Institute, $15 million to the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University, and $6 million to the Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine
  • $25 million for testing, tracing, and trends related to COVID-19
  • $20 million for additional public health capacity, including increasing nursing capacity, number of community health workers, telehealth services and providing infection control support and training in nursing homes and adult care homes
  • $20 million for enhanced behavioral health and crisis services to respond to COVID-19, including diverting individuals experiencing behavioral health emergencies from emergency departments
  • $50 million for purchasing additional PPE
  • $19 million for food, safety, shelter, and child care
  • $6 million for food banks
  • $2.25 million for foster care support
  • $25 million for facilities that serve Special Assistance recipients
  • $50 million for rural and under-served communities
  • $65 million for rural hospital support
  • $5 million for free and charitable clinics
  • $1.5 million for NC MedAssist
  • $15 million for the Teaching Hospitals Relief Fund
  • $15 million for the General Hospital Relief Fund
  • $300 million for the DOT Coronavirus Relief Fund, if allowed by the federal government
  • $150 million for local government grants to support immediate COVID-19 needs
  • $150 million for the Local Government Coronavirus Relief Reserve, if allowed by the federal government
  • $20 million to support fee-supported state operations, if allowed by the federal government
  • $70 million for continuity of government operation needs, including covering overtime costs, purchasing PPE, sanitation and hygienic supplies, and critical information technology equipment
  • $15 million for animal depopulation and disposal
  • $125 million for small business loans through Golden LEAF
  • $290,000 for the LINKS program
  • $5 million for the Association of Community Health Centers
  • $5 million for Visit NC marketing
  • $1.8 million for the Old North State Medical Society
  • $9 million for the GREAT program to expand access to broadband internet