N.C. General Assembly Debate School Reopening, COVID-19 Relief

Last Thursday, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper laid out his budget recommendations for COVID-19 relief spending, which includes one time bonuses for teachers and school personnel, recovery for businesses and further efforts to stop the spread of the virus.

Cooper’s budget recommendations for allocating federal funding comes as the Republican-led General Assembly already passed an emergency COVID-19 relief bill with a second one expected to come out this week. 

The first COVID-19 bill includes broadband internet expansion funding, vaccine distribution and provides money to help schools reopen — an effort that Republican lawmakers have been pushing since the start of the pandemic despite lack of adequate aid for schools and teachers.

Cooper’s budget calls for hazard duty pay for frontline state employees, money for North Carolina’s food banks and housing legal services support. Cooper is also urging lawmakers to expand the duration and amount of state jobless benefits — which has been gutted by the Republican-led NCGA, resulting in North Carolina having the one of the shortest and stingiest employment benefits in the country. 

Cooper’s budget recommendation calls for lawmakers to appropriate the millions of dollars of unreserved state funds to address a number of issues that the Republican-led NCGA has failed to meet. 

From The Progressive Pulse:

The $5 billion unreserved balance refers to state dollars that have not been appropriated, and it does not include additional money in the Rainy Day Fund or other special funds. The Governor proposes immediately appropriating 16.5 percent, or $698 million, of the unreserved balance.

The $5 billion in the state’s unreserved balance is about 20 percent of the state’s annual appropriation. That $5 billion doesn’t include the Rainy Day Fund, which is an additional $1.1 billion available for times of disaster and downturns that has not been tapped for the COVID-19 response.

Due to the NCGA failing to pass a budget and chronic underinvestment, the state has more than $4 billion in unreserved public funds available today that can cover the Governor’s proposed plan and go beyond it to fully ensure that our state’s recovery from the pandemic takes hold. 

Bottom Line: Our state has the resources to fully address the challenges that families, business and communities across the state are facing. If the Republican-led NCGA is truly committed to rebuilding our state, they must stand with Gov. Roy Cooper and enact meaningful legislation in order to rebuild our state stronger and more equitable.

Alanna Joyner