Gov. Roy Cooper signs 2 COVID-19 bills, providing $1.5B in relief funding

Gov. Roy Cooper signs 2 COVID-19 bills, providing $1.5B in relief funding
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper updates the public during a press briefing on the COVID-19 virus on Thursday, April 30, 2020 at the Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh, N.C. (Source: Robert Willett)

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP | WECT) - The General Assembly has finalized a relief package to address the new coronavirus pandemic in North Carolina, agreeing to send money to schools, hospitals, local governments and researchers.

A pair of bipartisan measures approved unanimously by the House and Senate on Saturday direct how nearly $1.6 billion in federal funds are distributed and how government activities during the outbreak are deferred or delayed.

Gov. Roy Cooper signed the bills into law Monday morning.

"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.”

He and Republican legislative leaders praised the collaboration in fashioning the measures. The Legislative Building was closed to the public while the General Assembly worked this week.

“I applaud the General Assembly for working quickly to pass legislation to fight COVID-19 in North Carolina," Cooper said. "These bills were developed collaboratively, and although it’s just a first step, they are the product of a consensus approach that I hope can continue. I will be reviewing them closely and look forward to taking action on them soon.”

Cooper said Monday, the approved bill will give $125 million to help small businesses through a loan fund run by the Golden LEAF Foundation.

HB 1043, the spending package, allocates federal funding sent to the state from the CARES Act. It includes:

  • $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.

Senate Bill 704 contained provisions to help North Carolinians. It includes:

  • An extension of driver’s license and registration expiration deadlines
  • Waived interest on tax payments normally due in April
  • Modifies end-of-grade testing requirements for public schools
  • Adjusts the 2020-21 K-12 public school calendar
  • Allows pharmacists to administer a COVID-19 vaccine once it is developed

“This emergency funding is a first step. There will be more work ahead. We need to repair the damage done by this virus and look ahead to prevent illness in the future,” Cooper said.

The governor went on to stay it’s still vitally important for people to stay home, sanitize and keep that physical distance. He says the the state is on track to start Phase One of opening back up this weekend, but we can lose ground quickly, if North Carolinians ignore those recommendations in the days ahead.

LIVE: Gov. Roy Cooper to provide COVID-19 update as number of positive cases grow >> https://bit.ly/2WytrhH

Posted by WECT News on Monday, May 4, 2020

Copyright 2020 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. WECT contributed to this report.