Homeless students slipping through the cracks during the pandemic, congressional panel told

Gov. Cooper says the $5.7 billion in federal rescue money can bring “transformational change” to NC

Governor Roy Cooper

Gov. Roy Cooper’s ideas for spending the $5.7 billion coming to the state from the latest federal recovery package range from offering another round of direct payments to parents to improving local water and sewer systems.

Cooper presented his proposals for widespread investments to  – among other goals –  help individuals and businesses, expand high-speed internet access, improve rural downtowns, and pay for scholarships for community college and university students.

“This pandemic brought us a once in a generation challenge, and these funds a once in a generation opportunity,” Cooper said.  “Let’s use them to make transformational change for our state. We can revolutionize North Carolina.”

Cooper proposes using some of the money to continue a modified version of a program of direct grants to parents that legislative Republicans started last year.

The “extra credit grants” would go to low- and middle-income families based on their 2019 incomes, and would cost $250 million. Families would get $250 or $500, depending on their income, with people who make less money getting the bigger grant. The maximum eligible income would be set at $60,000.

Cooper said the pandemic levied the most harm to people with lower incomes. “We need to try to get the money to families who need it the most,” he said.

The state budget office estimated that 320,000 families would receive $500 and 340,000 families would get $250.

Cooper would use some of the money to continue efforts to expand high-speed internet by spending $1.2 billion on broadband access and affordability. High-speed internet became a necessity in the pandemic when students had to learn from home and medical offices pivoted to telehealth.

The spending will ensure “every home with a school-aged child will have access to high-speed internet,” Cooper said.

Other proposals include:

  • $835 million for community college and university scholarships and grants. The NC Guarantee Scholarship would offer at least $6,000 to UNC and state community college students whose families earn less than $60,000 a year. The scholarships would phase out as family income increases to $75,000.
  • $575 million for affordable housing.
  • $175 million for rural downtown transformation grants.
  • $350 million in grants to small hospitality and related businesses, including $50 million targeted to small business owners who closed or partially closed their businesses in the pandemic to help them reopen in the existing locations.
  • $800 million to fix water and sewer systems. Aging pipes in North Carolina are driving up user bills, straining local utility budgets, and contributing to water pollution. $440 million would be use for water, sewer, and stormwater projects for distressed and at-risk water and wastewater units and $360 million would be available for all units statewide, according to the supporting budget document.

Senate confirms Ohio’s Marcia Fudge as HUD secretary

Governor extends evictions moratorium through at least January

Governor Roy Cooper announced Wednesday that he plans to extend North Carolina’s evictions moratorium on residential evictions for non-payment of rent through at least the end of January.

“This holiday season, too many families are struggling to pay rent as the pandemic surges,” said Governor Cooper. “As the first of the month approaches and rent becomes due, I wanted people to know that we plan to extend the moratorium on evictions.”

The announcement comes a day after the NC NAACP wrote to the governor requesting he step-in and provide emergency assistance to thousands of families facing economic distress as a result of the pandemic.

Here’s an excerpt from Rev. T. Anthony Spearman’s letter:

The details and language surrounding the governor’s moratorium will be forthcoming according to his press office and will be based on how or whether Congress extends the federal moratorium.

For more on the eviction crisis in North Carolina, read this piece by Policy Watch’s Joe Killian.

Housing advocates: New Trump administration rule will promote discrimination

The good people at the National Housing Law Project issued a sobering statement this afternoon about yet another effort by the Trump administration to weaken the nation’s civil rights laws.

Trump Administration Promotes Housing Discrimination with New HUD Rule

In yet another attack on the nation’s civil rights laws, the Trump administration has announced that it will publish a weakened fair housing rule tomorrow. The new disparate impact rule dismantles decades of U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) policy embodied in the 2013 rule and undermines the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Inclusive Communities, which affirmed the disparate impact doctrine under the Fair Housing Act.

“It is difficult to believe that our nation’s federal housing agency is promoting housing discrimination in the middle of a pandemic and related housing crisis,” said Shamus Roller, executive director of the National Housing Law Project. “While the rest of the country is demanding racial justice, the Administration attempts to eliminate one of the nation’s most important civil rights tools and writes the playbook on how to discriminate without getting caught.”

Practically speaking, the new HUD rule would sideline disparate impact as a usable legal tool to tackle systemic housing discrimination. This means that landlords, lenders, and other housing providers would be free to engage in activities that deprive people of color, domestic violence survivors, families with children, people with disabilities, and others of housing opportunities – so long as a discriminatory intent could not be shown.

“The core of the National Housing Law Project’s mission is to promote access to safe, decent, and affordable housing for those who are all too often denied such opportunities. HUD’s attack on disparate impact may make our mission harder, but we resolve to continue this fight,” continued Roller.

Civil rights and housing groups uniformly oppose the rule, which received more than 45,000 comments. The new regulation dismisses the majority of comments opposed, as it did with the new HUD rule that replaced the affirmatively furthering fair housing rule. NHLP and partnering organizations worked to oppose both rules through the #FightforHousingJustice campaign.

The publication of this rule continues the Trump Administration’s abysmal record on fair housing and civil rights. HUD just concluded public comment on the agency’s proposed anti-trans rule that would allow shelters funded with taxpayer dollars to turn away transgender and gender non-conforming people simply because of who they are. The proposed rule would eliminate the Equal Access Rule that ensures transgender people can access HUD-funded shelters that align with their gender iden