Bills allocate federal dollars for schools, small businesses, hospitals, medical research and more.
The aid, budgeted through the federal CARES Act, will be spent on education, hospitals, small businesses, medical research and more as the state grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Aside from the speed of the bills’ development, the coronavirus relief package was also unusual for its mostly bipartisan nature, as evidenced by Cooper’s joint appearance with his frequent legislative foils, House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger.
“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,” Cooper said. “There is more work ahead of us, and I hope the spirit of consensus behind these bills will continue.”
“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,” Moore said in a statement. “I appreciate the successful collaboration among our legislative colleagues and the Governor to provide this powerful support for North Carolinians.”
The legislation also included several provisions beyond the budget, including waived testing requirements for public schools, an extension of driver’s license and registration expiration deadlines, waived interest on April tax payments, and alterations to the 2020-2021 public school calendar. The bill will also allow pharmacists to administer a vaccine for COVID-19 after it’s developed.
While Democrats and Republicans were of one accord on the COVID relief bills, there are signs of clear fissures. Most notably, Republicans continue to oppose Medicaid expansion, a mostly federally-funded expansion that would allocate cash for healthcare in low-income families and potentially boost rural hospitals.
“Citizens expect bipartisan progress and we are off to a good start,” House Democratic Leader Darren Jackson said in a statement. “Now we need to do more for front-line workers, the unemployed, and people without health insurance.”
Here are some more highlights of the budget bill, as shared by Gov. Cooper’s office:
- $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.