(The Center Square) – The North Carolina Senate is reviewing a bill that would provide $9.7 billion in federal COVID-19 aid for the state and local governments.
Senate Bill 172 includes more than $6 billion in pass-through federal grants for education, child care, public health, long-term care, food benefits and housing and rental assistance. About $3.4 billion also is earmarked in the measure for local governments.
The funding was provided through the American Rescue Plan Act, which was signed by President Joe Biden in March.
North Carolina received more than $16 billion to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic through the federal measure, Senate appropriation leaders said.
States can use the federal aid to address revenue losses caused by the pandemic, cover costs incurred by responding to the crisis and provide support for recovery, according to the U.S. Treasury. Federal guidelines specify the support can include "assistance to households, small businesses and nonprofits, and aid to impacted industries." It also can provide "premium pay to essential workers and make necessary investments in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure."
SB 172 creates state, local and capital reserve funds so the General Assembly can allocate the remaining federal aid in the future.
Notably, the bill earmarks $1 billion for rental assistance to be dispersed among 16 regions in the state. A dozen counties received rental and utility assistance funds directly from the federal government. The largest tranche was $49 million, which was earmarked for Mecklenburg County.
The biggest rental assistance allocation from the state was more than $107 million for counties categorized under Region G, which includes Alamance, Caswell, Davidson, Montgomery, Randolph, Rockingham, Davie, Stokes, Surry and Yadkin counties. The bill also sets aside $273 million for homeownership assistance.
The deadline for parents to apply for a $335 grant to help cover costs associated with remote learning is extended until July 1 under the bill.
Many low-income families that qualified for the program did not apply, according to a report released Thursday by the state auditor’s office. The previous deadline for the Extra Credit Grant program was May 31.
About $440 million was set aside for the program, which initially was scheduled to expire Oct. 15, 2020. The grants were provided through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and was approved by the General Assembly in May 2020.
SB 172 was approved Thursday by the Senate Committee on Appropriations/Base Budget. It must be approved by a full vote in the House and the Senate before being sent to Gov. Roy Cooper for consideration.