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Cooper signs COVID relief bill distributing federal money

By Bryan Anderson
Associated Press/Report for America

RALEIGH — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper signed a coronavirus relief bill Wednesday that will dole out money the state received as part of stimulus bill Congress passed in December.

The federal funds provide money for schools to reopen, public health officials to distribute the vaccine and residents to help pay their rent.

“This pandemic continues to strain communities across our state, and this investment of federal funds in critical areas will help us defeat COVID-19 and build back a stronger and more resilient North Carolina,” Cooper said in a statement.

The law includes $1.6 billion for education with the aim of helping get kids back to school quicker and addressing learning loss the pandemic has exacerbated.

The bill also distributes $546 million for emergency rental assistance and $95 million for the state Department of Health and Human Services to improve vaccine distribution.

Parents who missed last year’s deadline will have another opportunity to apply for a $335 one-time check meant to help offset childcare costs and expenses associated with remote learning. North Carolina parents would have until May 31 to take advantage of the so-called Extra Credit grants. While many families have already received the check, the bill Cooper signed allows thousands of families still eligible for the direct payments to receive them.

Cooper recently introduced a supplemental budget that strongly overlaps with the bill he signed Wednesday. But unlike the plan from state lawmakers, Cooper wants one-time direct payments of $2,500 to teachers and principals, $2,000 to NC Community College and UNC System workers and $1,500 to noncertified school personnel.

The governor’s budget director, Charlie Perusse, unveiled plans to use state funds for the raises, though that is subject to change if the state gets more money through another wave of stimulus money from the federal government. Cooper’s administration will continue to work with lawmakers to try to approve the bonuses and other items.

President Joe Biden has called for a package valued at $1.9 trillion, while Senate Republicans prefer a narrower plan of about $600 billion.

The teacher and staff bonuses would be paid in April, with the $468 million in estimated spending coming from the unreserved state General Fund.

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