On Monday, May 4, Governor Roy Cooper signed into law two COVID-19 relief bills that unanimously passed the NC Senate and NC House of Representatives on May 2. One bill (H.B. 1043) appropriates $1.5 billion in funding for immediate state needs related to the COVID-19 crisis. The other bill (S.704) makes a variety of policy changes to help North Carolina respond to and recover from the pandemic. Many provisions in this COVID-19 legislation are important to nonprofits, including:
The CARES Act provided about $3.5 billion in federal funding to help North Carolina respond to the COVID-19 crisis in 2020. The COVID-19 relief legislation appropriates about $1.5 billion of this funding. Legislators are holding off on spending the remainder of the federal funding immediately in hopes that Congress will provide states flexibility to use some of the CARES Act money to make up for revenue shortfalls in the FY2020-21 budget. Consistent with the Center’s recommendations, the bill provides immediate assistance to many nonprofits by formally appropriating a variety of grant funding from the CARES Act. These grants include support for food banks and other food assistance programs, affordable housing and homelessness prevention, hospitals and community health centers, arts organizations, the Community Services Block Grant and Community Development Block Grant, childcare services, and family violence prevention programs.
The relief bill codifies (and provides more details for) various COVID-19 unemployment insurance (UI) law changes that Governor Cooper made through executive orders. These changes include a state unemployment tax (SUTA) credit for businesses and nonprofits that pay this tax and a provision that COVID-19 related UI benefits will not be charged to employers’ accounts. The Center is continuing to work with legislators and state officials to ensure that this relief is also afforded to self-insured nonprofits. Unlike an earlier Senate version, the final relief bill does not increase the maximum weekly UI benefits from $350 per week to $400 per week; many nonprofits have advocated for legislators to increase UI benefits.
The bill provides regulatory flexibility for state agencies during the COVID-19 crisis, allowing them to extend filing deadlines and waive late filing fees, penalties, and interest. Notably for nonprofits, this will enable the Secretary of State to extend charitable solicitation licensing deadlines beyond the typical 60-day automatic extension period.
Health care assistance
The bill expands access to telehealth services and increases access to medical supplies needed for COVID-19 prevention and treatment. It would instead increase support for free and charitable clinics ($5 million) and community health centers ($5 million) to provide more COVID-19 services and provide an additional $95 million for hospitals and a 5% increase in fee-for-service rates for Medicaid providers during the COVID-19 crisis. The bill also provides $1 million to each of the six food banks in North Carolina and $2.25 million for supplemental foster care payments. Unlike an earlier version of the bill in the House, the final bill does not temporarily expand Medicaid coverage to individuals with incomes up to 200% of the federal poverty level for COVID-19 prevention, testing, and treatment.
Small business loans
The bill appropriates $125 millionto the Golden LEAF Foundation to expand the COVID-19 small business bridge loan program. Nonprofits would not be eligible for these loans.
Immunity for essential businesses
The bill would provide limited immunity for essential businesses for COVID-19 related illness or death of customers or employees incurred during the provision of products or services. It would not prevent employees from seeking workers compensation claims against their employers if they are diagnosed with COVID-19 while working. This provision is relevant for many nonprofits, since many types of nonprofit services were deemed “essential” in Governor Cooper’s “stay-at-home” executive order.