State Lawmakers Reconvene for Short Session in Raleigh to Pass $1 Billion Relief Bill, Including Bumps in Unemployment Benefits, Help for Childcare, Education

RALEIGH – The CARES Act passed by congress still has legs in North Carolina. State lawmakers say they have around $1 billion in federal relief funds, and they are meeting this week to apply said funds to relief efforts focused on unemployment, education, and child care.

Under the plan, families will receive a one time $325 payment to help offset the costs of remote learning. Families have been burdened, of course, with Governor Roy Cooper’s decision to prohibit public schools from opening for traditional in-person instruction, meaning many districts have gone 100 percent virtual.

The direct payment amounts to around $440 million, but another plan puts an additional $75 million toward expanding capacity at child care facilities, and offers millions more for parents to access grants to help with child care costs.

Even though Cooper closed the schools, parents that are lucky enough to retain their jobs (well over a million unemployment claims have been filed since March) have scrambled to juggle the need to earn a living while also facilitating remote learning for school-aged kids.

That means child care, ‘learning pods,’ ‘learning centers,’ and all sorts of other alternatives have popped up so parents can work and kids can learn.

Parents are facing an unexpected financial burden from school closures like child care, supplemental learning materials, lost wages, and more are adding up,” said Sen. Joyce Krawiec (R-Forsyth) at the press conference announcing the plans.

In addition, the Republican majority’s plan adds money ($6.5 million) in order to expand the threshold for the Opportunity Scholarship program, from 133 percent of poverty level, to 150 percent of poverty level. That program awards scholarships to low-income families to apply toward private school options instead of remaining trapped in public schools that are failing them.

Nonsensically, Democrats OPPOSE this program, for the most part. Governor Roy Cooper’s recommended budget actually eliminates its funding entirely. Why? Because he and others are beholden to public-school-only radicals.

Finally, Republicans plan on using some of the federal aid to bump up unemployment benefits by $50 more a week. The state rate is currently at $350 in weekly benefits.

Of course, Democrats are already whining that none of this is enough. It’s an open question as to whether or not Governor Roy Cooper will sign such a bill, as the Republican majorities make it likely the bill at least ends up on his desk.

Will he actually veto a bill that seeks to distribute federal relief funds in ways that target the pain caused by Pandemic Panic and arbitrary closures? Would you really be surprised if he did?

Watch the action on the floor of the N.C. House and Senate here.

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