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Cooper says he’ll sign state COVID-19 aid package

RALEIGH (AP) — North Carolina’s Democratic governor announced Friday that he will sign a Republican-authored plan to spend $1.1 billion of the state’s remaining federal COVID-19 relief funds on aid to families with children, unemployment benefits and efforts to fight the virus.

Gov. Roy Cooper’s announcement came a day after he received the package from legislators. It includes direct cash payments to nearly 2 million families, a $50 increase in weekly unemployment benefits and more funds for virus testing, tracing and personal protective equipment.

The measure, which left out many of the governor’s spending recommendations, comfortably passed both chambers of the GOP-controlled General Assembly, clearing its final legislative hurdle Thursday. Most Democratic legislators supported the final plan, even though a few in each chamber complained they were left out when the bill was crafted.

“Obviously I don’t agree with every provision, but the funding for pandemic support in this budget is critical and must move forward,” Cooper said in a statement.

Cooper’s statement noted that the package included some of his recommendations on expanding broadband and ensuring K-12 school districts won’t be penalized financially should enrollments drop. However, he said lawmakers should have entertained a proposal to expand Medicaid and used state money on bonuses to public school teachers.

The package also includes money to help struggling small businesses and to recruit poll workers on Election Day. Families with at least one child will, by mid-December, receive $335 in stimulus-style payments.

Earlier this year, legislators allocated well over $2 billion in North Carolina’s $3.5 billion share of COVID relief funds.

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