Roy Cooper signs COVID relief bill despite call for more spending

By Andrew Dunn

Raleigh, NC – Gov. Roy Cooper signed a more than $2 billion COVID relief bill on Wednesday, February 10, despite his call for more spending.

The General Assembly passed the bill, which includes $1.6 billion for public schools and another half-billion in rental assistance, primarily to allocate money passed down from the federal government.

Cooper had outlined his own plan for spending the money, plus called for hundreds of millions more in spending from the state’s General Fund. 

In signing the bill, Cooper did not reference that plan.

“This pandemic continues to strain communities across our state, and this investment of federal funds in critical areas will help us defeat COVID-19 and build back a stronger and more resilient North Carolina,” he said in a statement.

Cooper’s signature marks a significant departure from how he has handled budget bills in the past when the General Assembly did not follow his lead. 

In 2019’s long session, Cooper vetoed the annual budget because it did not include Medicaid expansion, one of his top priorities. He also claimed it did not include teacher raises of the size he would like.

That was the first session in which Republicans did not hold a supermajority in the General Assembly during Cooper’s tenure. The state has still not passed a budget since 2018, though the General Assembly is crafting another this year.

The COVID relief bill will also extend the deadline for applying for $335 “Extra Credit” grants, expand broadband internet in rural areas, aid in vaccine distribution, and add oversight of North Carolina’s coronavirus recovery efforts.

Andrew Dunn is a freelance writer for Carolina Journal.