The North Carolina legislature with Republican majorities in both houses doesn’t always agree, but it could hardly have been more united in its support of $1 billion COVID-19 relief package it passed this week.
The North Carolina state Senate passed the bill by a 44-to-5 margin on Wednesday, Sept. 2 and the state House on Thursday, Sept. 3 passed it 104-to-10.
With such overwhelming majorities in the legislature, Gov. Roy Cooper may not have any choice but to sign it. However, Cooper has already complained that the bill does not include Medicaid expansion, the issue that prevented the state from passing a budget in 2019. Also, Cooper’s proposed budget eliminated funding for “opportunity scholarships” and this bill expands those who are eligible.
Opportunity scholarships provide funding to low and moderate income families to pay tuition at private schools. With private schools offering all-in-person classes and public schools required by Cooper to either have all virtual classes or a mix of virtual and in-person classes, Republicans said offering the option to parents wanting to make the best choice for their children was more important than ever.
The big news in the $903 million spending bill was that parents with children under 17 would receive a $335 stimulus check to cover unexpected childcare costs caused by schools going to remote learning.
The state is in the unusual position of having to spend the CARES Act money before the end of the year. What isn’t spent goes back to the federal government.
The bill also increased unemployment benefits by $200 a month and allocated $75 million for PPE.
An additional $40 million will be spent on broadband and home connectivity, which has become vital for students because of remote learning.
Also schools with declining enrollment because of COVID-19 restrictions were promised they would not lose funding because of that decline.
The bill allocates $45 million for a small business grant program and $44.5 million for hurricane recovery.