Virus Outbreak North Carolina Session Opens

House minority leader Darren Jackson, D-Wake, wears a mask as he and a few other lawmakers at the North Carolina General Assembly gather on the House floor to open a new session amid the current COVID-19 stay-at-home restrictions in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday, April 28, 2020.

(The Center Square)— The North Carolina House approved the state's second coronavirus relief package for the state Thursday.

The bill, which allocates a portion of the $3.5 billion of direct aid provided through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, now heads to Gov. Roy Cooper.

The package approved Thursday would provide $150 million to support local governments that did not qualify for direct federal aid. It also includes $100 million to support schools, hospitals, provide economic relief and offset other coronavirus-related costs.

House Bill 1023 was presented on the House floor by Rep. Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth.

"What this bill does is the next phase of allocating some of the coronavirus funds to those that are needing it across the state," said Lambeth, the senior chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

The CARES Act authorized by Congress in late March earmarked more than $4 billion for North Carolina to cover COVID-19 expenses. The General Assembly in May passed an extensive package that allocated nearly $1.6 billion.

Local governments with more than 500,000 residents received 45 percent of the funds directly from the U.S. Treasury. If Cooper signs the bill, counties would receive an even share of the $150 million and would be required to disperse 25 percent to its municipalities.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services would be provided an additional $6 million under the bill. Most of that, $5 million, would be used to bolster care at rehabilitation centers, mental health facilities and other group homes. The remainder would provide $100 supplemental payments for children living in foster care.

North Carolina Association of Free and Charitable Clinics and the North Carolina Community Health Center Association would receive an additional $5 million each. The measure also would provide $9.5 million to hospitals, $2.5 million of which would go to those in rural areas.

A chunk of the money would support economic growth, including $15 million for job retention grants for businesses and nonprofit organizations that were excluded from the federal Paycheck Protection Program. The package also supports tourism, marketing and technology advances for the state.

Some lawmakers said the bill short-changed schools.

"As someone who advocates strongly for our public schools, I do not believe that this will come close to going as far as it needs to for our children," Rep. Ashton Wheeler Clemmons, D-Guilford, said.

According to Clemmons, it is going to cost $38 million a month to secure personal protective equipment to operate schools safely.

There are more than one million students and 300,000 staff members in North Carolina schools. The measure sets aside $7 million for personal protective equipment and $5 million for grants for well-performing students.

Lambeth said Thursday that more aid would be routed to schools in the third round of funding. He also thinks Congress plans to send more assistance to the states.

"I will tell you that there's more to come. There's still work to be done," Lambeth said. "We're also fairly confident that we're going to receive another significant CARES Act at the federal level that would allocate more money to North Carolina, that would allow us to continue to meet some of the many needs."

Staff Reporter

Nyamekye Daniel has been a journalist for three years. She was the managing editor for the South Florida Media Network and a staff writer for The Miami Times. Daniel's work has also appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and The New York Times.