RALEIGH – Multiple bills emanating from the COVID-19 legislative task force are being deliberated and voted on at the N.C. General Assembly, with the N.C. House passing a $1.7 billion ‘Pandemic Response’ bill that would expand unemployment benefits coverage to virtually any loss of work due to the coronavirus, offer businesses tax credits for their portion of unemployment insurance taxes, and extend loans to small businesses.
House Bill 1043, or the Pandemic Response Act, was supported by all but one member in the third reading. It now faces a reconciliation process with a senate version of the bill that has a total price tag difference of around $300 million.
The bill includes a lot — waiving deadlines for taxes and fees, adjusting school testing requirements, etc. — but the money portions are focused on the expanded unemployment benefits, tax credits, and loan programs.
The changes will mean, if passed into law, that nearly any employee whose lost income due to the shutdown policies stemming from the coronavirus, will be eligible to claim benefits. The appear also that the State will also be taking unemployment insurance costs off of business owners hands through the use of a tax credit against required employer contributions to the Unemployment Insurance system.
The last provision clarifies that these expanded benefits and the tax credit will last until Governor Roy Cooper rescinds the State of Emergency, or December 31, 2020, whichever comes first. Being that it is an election year, it is doubtful that Cooper will remove the state of emergency before November if it means ending the expanded benefits.
Another important part of the legislation are provisions to help fund small-business loans through the Golden Leaf foundation. The State allocates $75 million, matched with $15 million from the foundation, to offer $50,000 emergency loans to small-business owners.
The loan program will last until six months after the expiration of the State of Emergency, another incentive to keep the state of emergency in place. There is a lot more, which you can parse through here, but the House must reconcile this bill with the senate version before sending to the governor for signature. The lawmakers aren’t wasting much time though, with Speaker Tim Moore telling members they should expect to participate in a concurrence vote with the final draft as early as Thursday night or Friday.