On Wednesday, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper unveiled a list of proposals for North Carolina’s $5.7 billion share from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan passed by federal lawmakers in March.
Calling it a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to make transformational changes, Gov. Cooper proposed widespread investments to expand high-speed internet access across the state, give checks to families with school-age children, invest in much-needed infrastructure upgrades and give relief to struggling businesses.
- Other proposals include investments toward affordable housing, community college and university scholarships and grants, food banks, small farms, as well as funding to test for and remove lead and asbestos in schools and child care centers.
- All funds from the federal aid relief must be used by 2026 — giving state policymakers some leeway when considering areas to invest in. Within Gov. Cooper’s recommendation, some of the proposals put forward are for one-time investments, but some call for renewed spending in years ahead.
- “We have five years in which to invest this money over a five-year period of time,” Gov. Roy Cooper said. “We’re trying to emerge from the pandemic, so we need a shot in the arm. Particularly in the area of education and workforce training.”
As the pandemic has highlighted, access to high-speed internet that can open access to telehealth, adequate early childhood programs, affordable housing and expanding local public health departments are all vital in order to ensure our state has a just recovery.
With billions of federal funding in hand, state lawmakers have the opportunity to put people first and make long-term investments, as recommended by Gov. Cooper, that strengthens our economy, helps our communities to thrive and sets our state on a sustainable path to more equitable outcomes.
The reality is that the only way to make sure the recovery from the pandemic doesn’t deepen inequities is if our lawmakers consider policies that ensure every North Carolinian can connect to opportunity.
As the legislature considers a budget proposal this week, our state lawmakers must consider investments that are designed with North Carolinians’ well-being at the center, and ensure that it is a just recovery that puts us all on more solid ground for the future.