North Carolina’s public schools will receive more than $175 million in federal aid under a bill signed into law Monday by Gov. Roy Cooper.
School nutrition programs across the state will get $75 million of the $15.7 billion in CARES Act money allocated by state lawmakers in House Bill 1043.
School districts are set to receive $70 million to launch summer learning programs for thousands of students whose educations were interrupted by the COVID-19 crisis.
Another $30 million will go to schools to purchase computers and other devices for students to access remote learning opportunities. State officials estimate that more than 300,000 students do not have the electronic devices or internet connections needed to participate in remote learning.
Cooper also signed Senate Bill 704, which allows school districts to start school Aug. 17. That’s a week earlier than schools could start ordinarily under the state calendar law.
Meanwhile, SB 704 suspends many of the state’s testing required for the current school year. It also suspends the controversial A-F grading for schools.
“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 in a news release. “There is more work ahead of us, and I hope the spirit of consensus behind these bills will continue.”
The bills were the result of a bipartisan effort to address the needs of the state during the COVID-19 crisis which forced Cooper to close schools for the remainder of the academic year.
“The General Assembly crafted a bipartisan COVID-19 relief package that puts North Carolina on the right path to recovery,” Sen. President Pro Tem Phil Berger said in a statement. “Gov. Cooper’s signature on these bills sends a signal to our citizens that our state is moving past this crisis and that action is being taken to address their concerns.”
HB 1043 also 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
- $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.
And SB 704 includes:
- An extension of driver’s license and registration expiration deadlines.
- Waived interest on tax payments normally due in April.
- Allows pharmacists to administer a COVID-19 vaccine once it is developed.