May 8, 2020
North Carolina General Assembly — Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update
Governor Cooper signed House Bill 1043: 2020 COVID-19 Recovery Act and Senate Bill 704: COVID-19 Recovery Act into law earlier this week. The pair of relief bills allocate $1.5 billion to schools, hospitals, small businesses, local governments, and research in order to address the COVID-19 crisis. The General Assembly expects to return May 18 to address further COVID-19-related needs and to take up issues related to the state budget.
As of Thursday morning, in the state of North Carolina, there were 13,397 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 171,328 completed tests, 507 deaths, 525 current hospitalizations, and 99 of the state's 100 counties had seen confirmed COVID-19 cases. As we all continue to feel the effects of the global pandemic and adjust to a new normal, we want to highlight a few ways our clients across North Carolina have worked to support residents and make this time a little easier for those throughout the state. Read more about what our clients are doing to help by clicking here.
For more information on COVID-19 in North Carolina, click here to visit the Department of Health and Human Services website, and be sure to stay up to date on the latest federal guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by clicking here.
Gov. Cooper signed E.O 138 easing restrictions on travel, business operations, and mass gatherings earlier this week. E.O. 138 modifies North Carolina's existing Stay At Home order by slowly easing certain COVID-19 restrictions, effective Friday, May 8 at 5:00 PM. The order will remove the distinction between essential and non-essential businesses. Retail businesses will be allowed to open at 50% capacity, but will have to maintain social distancing amongst customers, provide hand sanitizer, perform frequent cleanings, and screen workers for symptoms. Bars, gyms, barbershops, salons and entertainment venues will remain closed through Phase One. Additionally, restaurants can only continue to serve through takeout or delivery. Phase Two is expected to be implemented at least two to three weeks after Phase One based on downward-data trends.
Take a look at a summary of the changes being implemented throughout the state in Phase One:
Chart Source: NC Governor
Department of Transportation
The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) Board met May 7 for their monthly meeting. The board met virtually to approve projects and hear operational updates from NCDOT leaders. Earlier this week, the NC State Auditor released an audit revealing that the NCDOT exceeded its 2019 spending plan by $742 million. The Department has faced financial trouble due to unprecedented storms and Map Act lawsuits. Now, COVID-19 has suppressed gas and motor fuel taxes that fund the Department. NCDOT Sec. Eric Boyette told the board that the Department projects a loss of roughly $300 million in revenue this fiscal year, and expects another $370 million in lost revenue next fiscal year. The Department has fallen below its cash floor of $300 million mandated by the General Assembly, and has eliminated nearly 400 temporary and contract employees. NCDOT was allocated $300 million in the pair of COVID-19 relief bills passed by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor, but cannot receive the money unless federal law allows. Provisions in the CARES Act did not allow for the money to be used as a revenue replacement. Sec. Boyette, along with NCDOT COO Bobby Lewis, told the board that they have been in productive discussions with North Carolina's congressional delegation in hopes to change that provision through a potential CARES Act 2.0. The board approved all projects on the meeting agenda contingent on available funding.
State Board of Education
The NC State Board of Education (SBE) voted 8-3 Thursday to stand by their March decision to give seniors pass or withdraw grades. The pass or withdraw grade will not count towards a student's final GPA. The change comes as Governor Roy Cooper instructed that all schools will be closed for the rest of the year. The SBE, in conjunction with the Department of Public Instruction (DPI), submitted a number of legislative funding request to be considered by the General Assembly during their special COVID-19 session. Highlights of the requests approved in the new law include:
- The next school year will start on Aug. 17 and end no later than June 11, 2021.
- $75 million will be allocated for school nutrition programs.
- $70 million will be allocated for summer learning programs.
- $30 million will be allocated for local school districts to buy computers for students in need.
The legislation also waived end of grade testing for students and other assessments. SBE will not identify any new low-performing schools based on data from the 2019-20 school year.
House Bill 1043 Funding highlights
- $75M allocated to DPI for school nutrition services provided in response to COVID 19 in the School Lunch or Breakfast Programs from 3/16/20 through the end of the school year.
- $1M allocated to DPI for improving internet connectivity through extended-reach mobile wi-fi gateway router devices in school buses .
- $11M to DPI for improving internet connectivity for students through mobile internet access points.
- $30M to DPI for computers or other electronic devices for use by certain public school students in response to COVID 19.
- $5M to DPI for certain public schools to provide computers or other electronic devices for use by school personnel.
- $4.5M to DPI to establish a shared cybersecurity infrastructure and district cybersecurity monitoring and support.
Senate Bill 704 Policy change highlights
- Testing Waivers - Section 2.3 clarifies or modifies various testing requirements, including EOGs, EOCs, the ACT, diagnostic and formative assessments for grades K 3, and WorkKeys.
- School Report Card Waivers - Section 2.4 waives the requirements for calculation and display of school report cards, and waives certain requirements related to the evaluation of alternative schools and public school building level reports.
- Low-Performing School Waivers - Section 2.5 waives identification of new low-performing schools, new continually low-performing schools, and new low-performing local school administrative units, and maintains identifications based on 2018-2019 data.
- ISD Waivers - Section 2.6 repeals the requirement that a new school be selected for the Innovative School District based on data from the 2019-2020 school year.
To view the full SBE Legislative update presentation, click here.