Cooper Administration Skimping On Paying Scholarships for Children of Veterans, Leaving Them In Limbo

RALEIGH – The North Carolina Scholarship for Wartime Veterans is a state funded program administered by the N.C. Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA). The scholarships are awarded automatically to children of servicemembers that are killed in action or who die as a result of injuries sustained in combat; children of those injured during combat; and, also awarded to an additional 100 each of children of servicemembers who fought in combat and veterans who retire with a disability rating.

But this year the students relying on those scholarships are scrambling because the DMVA, led by Cooper appointee and former state lawmaker (and Marine) Larry Hall, has slashed the payments in half while blaming the General Assembly for funding shortages stemming from the ongoing budget impasse.

It means students, during finals no less, are faced with figuring out how to make up for the thousands in tuition costs that were credited to their account, but have now suddenly become a debt to be paid by them. It’s a broken promise to the children of servicemembers that sacrificed their lives, limbs, and health in defense of our nation.

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From WBTV:

“[…] in memos to universities and in emails from a spokeswoman, Hall’s department has repeatedly claimed the agency doesn’t have enough money to fully fund the scholarship and has cast blame on Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly for the scholarship not being paid.

Hall, a Democrat, was appointed by Governor Roy Cooper to lead the agency.

“The North Carolina Department of Military and Veteran Affairs (Department) will unfortunately be required to reduce the funding amount for the North Carolina Scholarship for Children of War-Time Veterans from FY 2018-19,” the letter sent by DMVA to universities in late November said.

“The Department received an additional one-time appropriation from the General Assembly in the amount of $2.4 million in FY 2018-19 and was therefore able to allocate a greater amount for room and board than in prior years,” the letter continued. “The Department requested the $2.4 million to be made recurring for this Fiscal Year and funding was included in Governor Cooper’s recommended budget. The funding was not included in any bill passed by the General Assembly.” […]”

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If that is the case, then it’s Governor Roy Cooper’s political brinkmanship that has resulted in children of veterans failing to get their promised scholarships. Yet, it’s even worse than that. The sleuths at WBTV took care to look at the other recurring funding allocated to the scholarship every year, which was not mentioned by Hall at all, and found that the agency has $9.1 million in recurring funds every year to fund the scholarship program.

Even though we are months into a new fiscal year without a budget, there are no Washington-style government shutdowns here in North Carolina. That’s because funding levels merely continue at levels of the most recent budget, meaning the DMVA has over $9 million to service these scholarships. The number of scholarships is at a three year low, yet they’ve spent less than half what they should have available. Adding insult to injury, the DMVA is lying to universities saying that the payments had to be slashed because of a growing number of recipients.

More:

“[…] Additionally, data provided by a DMVA spokeswoman shows the number of scholarships being funded by DMVA is the lowest it has been in the past three years: 1,175 in the 2017-2018 school year; 1,231 in the 2018-2019 school year; and 1,172 in the 2019-2020 school year.

Despite the DMVA data that shows a drop in students actively receiving the scholarship for this school year, the letter sent to universities late last month says the room and board allowance had to be slashed because of a growing number of scholarship recipients.

“The $2.4 million in FY 2018-2019 was critical funding that allowed the Department to keep pace with increased scholarship demand and increased costs of college attendance. The Department awarded 405 scholarships for the 2019-2020 academic year versus 342 in the 2016-2017 academic year,” the letter said.

Outside of Cooper’s proposed budget, unveiled in early 2019, and one slide in a PowerPoint presentation made to a joint appropriations committee in mid-March, a DMVA spokeswoman could not provide any information or evidence to show the agency had pressed lawmakers to provide the additional funding. […]”

So they slash payments citing growing demand and costs, yet never asked for more money and appear to have only spent $4.2 million of the $9.1 million allocated for the program. Then the have the gall to assign blame to Republicans in the legislature.

So what is the real issue?

Either the DMVA, aka Cooper, is using the scholarships as a political football — which would be a really low thing to do, even for a desperate Democrat — or, behind the scenes mismanagement in the DMVA has choked the finances for even this priority program. The State Treasurer has already called for a change in leadership at the NCDOT after that executive agency overspent $2 billion and broke financial protocols; does the DMVA also have a spending problem?

Lawmakers contend the money is there, and are aghast that it’s not being delivered. None of it really adds up. The students, families, and taxpayers of North Carolina deserve the full equation as soon as possible.

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