N.C. General Assembly has a half billion dollars to spend on COVID-19 relief; Congress needs to pass more for states

Earlier this month, the North Carolina General Assembly’s Fiscal Research Division released its analysis detailing the approximately $552 million remaining in the state’s share of the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF). The General Assembly is scheduled to return to Raleigh for a brief session beginning on Sept. 2, at which time they should put to use the remaining funds to address the urgent needs North Carolinians are facing.

The fiscal brief notes that, of the more than $3 billion that has been appropriated by the General Assembly thus far, $351.5 million of those appropriations are not currently allowable under federal guidance, meaning the funds cannot be spent until their intended use is permitted in subsequent guidance or an amendment to the federal legislation that appropriated the funds to the state. Despite

CRF dollars were appropriated to the state as part of the CARES Act passed by Congress in March in the third and largest federal COVID-19 relief package to date. Some localities, including the City of Charlotte and Guilford, Mecklenburg, and Wake counties, received direct aid as well, while smaller localities had to rely upon state appropriations. Since then, Congress has failed to come together to pass any meaningful relief for state and local governments or for individuals and families facing extreme hardship, which we’ve highlighted.

Last week, the U.S. Senate adjourned after putting forward a piecemeal relief plan that fell far short of what is needed in North Carolina and failing to take subsequent action. Prior to the adjournment, President Trump took executive action that experts say would not help people struggling to pay rent, puts public services at risk in a misguided attempt to extend unemployment insurance benefits, and would provide little to no economic boost through payroll tax deferrals.

Congress needs to pass comprehensive COVID-19 relief that targets aid to families in need and provides substantial support for state and local governments so that public services can be sustained and jobs can be protected. Meanwhile, the N.C. General Assembly needs act as quickly as possible to put to use the remaining dollars meant to meet the needs caused by COVID-19.

Suzy Khachaturyan is a Policy Analyst at the NC Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center.

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