Latest Round of Federal Emergency Rental Relief Moving at State Level
This afternoon (2/4) Governor Cooper and the General Assembly both weighed in on how to deploy the more than $4 billion in federal relief money allocated to North Carolina through the year-end omnibus relief and stimulus package signed into law in late December 2020. During his daily COVID-19 briefing, Governor Cooper released his emergency supplemental budget recommendations outlining how the monies should be deployed. On a parallel track the General Assembly passed legislation (S.B. 36/ H.B. 42) outlining how legislators would like to deploy the latest COVID-19 relief resources.
Both the Governor and the General Assembly recommend deploying the state’s $546 million in emergency rental assistance to immediately provide that assistance, as opposed to using it for other purposes. The moves are a welcome sign that “help is on the way.” The Governor’s proposal does not specifically state what agency should administer the program, however, he lauded the HOPE Program for its work thus far to distribute rental and utility assistance. State Budget Director Charlie Perusse said that their intention in outlining the Governor’s proposal is that the $546 million be utilized to re-open the HOPE Program to new applicants when asked by a reporter. The HOPE Program is administered by NC Office of Recovery & Resiliency (NCORR)
The General Assembly COVID-19 relief bill assigns the $546 million in rental assistance to NCORR and the Office of State Budget & Management (OSBM), and presumably would funnel into the HOPE Program allowing it to re-open as well.
Governor Cooper’s COVID-19 budget differs from the General Assembly in that it also recommends using $695 million of the state’s “Rainy Day” fund (unreserved state General Fund balance) to provide additional COVID-19 related relief such as hazard pay, teacher bonuses, and increasing the state’s unemployment benefits. Governor Cooper says he will review the General Assembly’s bill and sign if it lines up with the priorities outlined in his proposal. It is unclear if the General Assembly will take up Cooper’s recommendation for using the state’s cash reserves.
As for timing of when the HOPE Program could open under either proposal, Perusse says the state is awaiting additional guidance from the U.S. Treasury Department outlining the requirements for this latest round of funding.
The Coalition will continue to monitor the progress of rental assistance as it moves forward.