RALEIGH, N.C. — Gov. Roy Cooper on Thursday joined DHHS Secretary Mandy Cohen and State Budget Director Charlie Perusse for an update on the state’s response to COVID-19 and to share emergency supplemental budget recommendations.
Cooper is proposing one-time bonuses to school personnel as part of a larger proposal of nearly $2 billion for emergency assistance for public and private K-12 schools and higher education in the state.
“I am proposing one-time bonuses of $2,500 for teachers and principals, $1,500 for school personnel in public K-12 schools and $2,000 for workers in our community colleges and universities,” Cooper said.
“In the last year, our teachers and school staff, along with community college and university workers, have gone above and beyond. Teachers have always been our heroes, but throughout this pandemic they have underscored their courage and commitment to educating our children.”
Cooper’s budget also proposes $30 million in emergency investment to extend high-speed internet and 35,000 hotspots for education.
For small businesses, Cooper said, “The federal stimulus extended the Paycheck Protection Program. I propose we invest $37 million more in emergency state funds to support small businesses, with a focus on Historically Underutilized Businesses and our tourism and hospitality industry, which has been hit hard. We know bars and restaurants are hurting and this budget proposes eliminating ABC permit fees which will save them about $25 million.”
Cooper said $546 million in federal dollars in his proposal will go toward the HOPE program, which makes payments directly to landlords and utilities to keep people in their homes.
In terms of the overall budget, in addition to the $4 billion in federal stimulus funds, Cooper’s administration is recommending $695 million from the more than $4 billion in state funds.
“People need help immediately, and we have both the means and the power to give it to them,” Cooper said.”
Cooper said his plan deploys both federal and state resources.
“The federal COVID relief package Congress passed in December provides more than $4 billion to North Carolina. It can do a lot of good,” Cooper said.
On COVID-19, numbers in the state are stabilizing, but Cooper and Cohen stressed they are still too high.
“As of today, we’ve had 781,802 lab confirmed cases; 5,495 new cases reported since yesterday; 2,630 people in the hospital; and sadly 9,728 people who have died. Our hearts are with the families and friends of loved ones lost to this virus,” Cooper said.
“We continue to be encouraged to see our numbers stabilize. But still they are too high. Wednesday marked the highest number of deaths recorded in a single day since the start of the pandemic. The virus is spreading and costing lives. It’s critical we keep taking it seriously.”
Cohen said the state is seeing a positive trend in COVID-19 numbers, though cases remain high.
Two weeks ago, 86 counties were in the “red” category (more than 200/100,000 new cases in 14 days with at least 42 cases in 14 days). That number is now down to 61 counties, Cohen said.
NC lawmakers pass COVID relief, advance K-12 reopening bill
North Carolina state senators have passed a bill requiring school boards allow the state’s 1.5 million K-12 public school students back in the classrooms.
The proposal allows parents to choose to continue having their child learn remotely.
The measure now heads to the state House of Representatives.
It would then go to Gov. Roy Cooper if approved.
Cooper has signaled his opposition to the bill.
Lawmakers also sent the governor a coronavirus relief bill that would give about $1.6 billion for education.
Some of the money will be used to help schools reopen.
Parents would have more time to apply for a $335 check to help offset the remote learning costs they’ve incurred.
AP contributed to this report.