By Nyamekye Daniel
(The Center Square) – Gov. Roy Cooper signed two bills into law May 4 that make up the first round of coronavirus relief for North Carolinians.
Cooper signed Senate Bill 704 and House Bill 1043 during a news conference. The bills include nearly $1.6 billion in federal aid and various policy changes meant to improve and help pay for the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am signing into law two critical relief bills that will provide assistance to families, schools, hospitals and small businesses as our state battles COVID-19,” Cooper said. “There is more work ahead of us, and I hope the spirit of consensus behind these bills will continue.”
HB 1043 allocates $1.4 billion in federal funding directed to North Carolina through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act to support remote learning for students, hospitals, public health, small businesses, research and vaccine development and buying personal protective equipment, among other needs. Another $150 million has been placed in a reserve fund for local government.
Policy changes in SB 704 include a driver’s license and registration deadline extension, public school testing waivers, legal protections for health-care workers and business owners, changes to unemployment law and tax relief for North Carolinians.
The two pieces of legislation quickly moved through the North Carolina House last week and were finalized unanimously in both chambers.
Cooper was joined May 4 by House and Senate leaders on both sides of the political aisle.
“The General Assembly crafted a bipartisan COVID-19 relief package that puts North Carolina on the right path to recovery,” Senate Leader Phil Berger, R–Rockingham said. “Gov. Cooper’s signature on these bills sends a signal to our citizens that our state is moving past this crisis and that action is being taken to address their concerns.”
Lawmakers have said they plan to work on another relief package in upcoming weeks.
“Citizens expect bipartisan progress, and we are off to a good start,” House Minority Leader Darren Jackson, D–Wake said. “Now we need to do more for front-line workers, the unemployed and people without health insurance.”