News: Quick Takes

New COVID relief bill promises $600 million more for colleges, K-12 schools

The N.C. Senate, in session Monday, March 1. (CJ photo by Maya Reagan)
The N.C. Senate, in session Monday, March 1. (CJ photo by Maya Reagan)

The N.C. General Assembly is considering a new COVID relief bill that would spend more than $600 million, primarily on North Carolina’s colleges and universities, and K-12 schools.

The money comes from the federal government, part of the $2.3 trillion spending bill passed at the end of last year.

House Bill 196 would allocate money to a few areas that have not been the subject of recent state COVID relief efforts.

Nearly $300 million of the money would go to higher education, to help with the cost of transitioning to more virtual learning and for financial aid.

About $130 million would go to K-12 schools. More than $84 million of that would be for private schools through a fund set up by Congress. The rest would go toward public schools, which have already benefited from several previous rounds of aid.

In this new bill, the General Assembly also carves out some of the education money to try to get a handle on how the coronavirus pandemic has affected education in North Carolina using federal money from previous allocations.

It would commission a report (at a cost of $1 million) to evaluate the impact of the last year on students and families and how well the state handled the transition to virtual learning and back to in-person instruction. 

The new bill comes on the heels of the more than $2 billion COVID relief package passed by the General Assembly and signed into law in early February. That bill allocated some $1.6 billion to public schools to prevent the spread of the virus, as well as a half-billion for rental assistance.

Congress is currently considering another $1.9 trillion federal COVID relief bill. Should it pass, North Carolina could be in line for another $5 billion or more.

Other provisions of note in the new COVID relief bill:

  • $40 million for summer in-person learning programs.
  • $12.8 million in emergency food assistance.
  • $10 million for more school counselors, social workers and psychologists to provide physical and mental health support to students.
  • $10 million to analyze and beef up public school cybersecurity.
  • $1 million for a teacher support program to mentor and coach beginning teachers