This week, the General Assembly quickly introduced and passed additional COVID relief legislation, but in a process that lacked transparency in ensuring equitable deployment of public dollars.
House Bill (HB) 196 appropriated the remaining $1.7 billion in federal money that was allocated to North Carolina in the Congressional relief package passed in December. While the bill took necessary action to ensure that state agencies can deploy federal funds, it did not go far enough, as the bill did little to allocate the additional dollars still available to address needs across the state during this ongoing crisis.
Filed on the same day as the legislation that was passed, HB 192 proposes allocating more than $700 million from the state’s General Fund, which has an unreserved cash balance of $5.3 billion, according to the latest report by the N.C. Office of State Controller.
These dollars result from a combination of the state’s historically low spending, higher than projected tax revenue collections during the pandemic, and stock market performance that reflects the deep inequalities that exists in our state and nation.
Quickly deploying dollars to communities facing ongoing challenges – both those challenges existing before the pandemic and from the damage due to COVID-19 – is critical for ensuring that North Carolinians can make ends meet.
Suzy Khachaturyan is a Policy Analyst with the Budget & Tax Center, a project of the NC Justice Center.
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