North Carolina COVID-19 bill includes $1.6B to help schools reopen, recover losses

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Legislation that would compensate more parents for remote learning and set aside $2.2 billion for reopening schools, vaccine distribution and rental assistance was approved Wednesday by the North Carolina Senate.

The legislation, Senate Bill 36 and House Bill 42, extends the deadline for parents to apply for $335 one-time grants and allocates federal COVID-19 aid provided by Congress in December. The Senate voted, 45-0, to approve SB 36, and it now moves on to the House.

The House Appropriations Committee held a hearing on HB 42 on Wednesday, but the full House plans to vote on Senate version, SB 36, on Thursday, Rep. Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth, said.

The bills release $39 million for broadband internet expansion, some of which was approved by Gov. Roy Cooper in December, to expand internet access in 18 counties. They also make changes to the state’s deadline for Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to match federal guidance.

The CARES Act funding, which was provided through the Coronavirus Relief Fund, was set to expire Dec. 31, 2020, before Congress extended the deadline to December 2021.

If the legislation becomes law, parents who missed an opportunity to apply for the Extra Credit Grant program would be able to seek the $335 grant until May 31. The program is meant to offset the cost of remote learning. The previous deadline was Oct. 15 before a lawsuit extended it to December.

“There was actually a software glitch, and there were a number of families that were eligible for that program but did not receive their check,” Lambeth said.

The legislation would allocate $94.7 million to support the state’s vaccination efforts and $546.6 million to assist North Carolinians who are unable to pay rent and utilities because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The bills also provide $1.6 billion for North Carolina public and charter K-12 schools to reopen safely and to offset financial loss. Congress provided the funding from the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which was signed by former President Donald Trump in December.

Once the legislation is approved by the House and Senate, it will be sent to the governor.

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