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NC General Assembly Passes COVID-19 Relief – Neglects Housing Need

Pamela Atwood, Director of Housing Policy

Today the North Carolina General Assembly passed a $904 million relief bill (HB 1105) allocating the state’s remaining federal COVID-19 relief funds. The bill provides funds for a variety of measures, however, housing and utility assistance are excluded. The Coalition and other stakeholders had been working to get the provisions of House Bill 1200 ($200 million for Foreclosure Prevention/Rental & Utility Assistance) into the relief package. Lawmakers opted however to exclude housing resources, with many during floor debates citing the Governor’s announcement last week rolling out $175 million for housing related needs

HB 1105 passed House Appropriations and the Senate yesterday. This morning the full House voted and passed the bill with 104 in favor and 10 opposed. The bill now goes to Governor Cooper for signature. 

The General Assembly will now formally adjourn the Short Session and are not expected until the next legislative session begins on January 13th, 2021. There is a possibility they return for a Special Session in the event that North Carolina receives additional federal pandemic relief funds. With Congress also on recess until after Labor Day and negotiations at a standstill on additional relief, the possibility of that happening in the next month or so are slim.

So with the pandemic and economic crisis continuing on, North Carolina’s primary source of housing relief are those announced by Governor Cooper and a patchwork of local programs primarily funded by CARES Act resources. Last week Governor Cooper announced that $94 million in CDBG-CV funds will be administered by the NC Office of Recovery & Resiliency (NCORR) to provide rental and utility assistance across the state. $53 million is ESG-CV funds administered by NC Department of Health & Human Services (NCDHHS) to provide emergency crisis support to people experiencing homelessness or in immediate risk. The remaining $28 million goes to the NC Department of Commerce for traditional CDBG activities, although they are encouraged to provide rental and utility assistance. These programs do not include resources for mortgage payment assistance, housing counseling, or legal services. 

Between today’s events and the CDC eviction moratorium, more resources are needed. While the moves made by the Governor’s office and the CDC moratorium will undoubtedly help thousands of people remain housed, many more will not be able to qualify for the state programs and we risk losing a large swath of rental housing units without further rental, utility, and mortgage assistance. 

It is imperative that Congress pass additional relief measures, such as the $100 billion for rental assistance that is included in the HEROES Act. Congress is set to return after Labor Day. Please contact your House members and Senators Burr and Tillis to urge them to support additional relief for housing in North Carolina. Go here to find NC’s delegation.

Thank you to those of you who contacted NC General Assembly members. We appreciate your support and ask that you remain vigilant with us to ensure that North Carolinians are able to access housing for the duration of the pandemic and beyond. Please keep an eye out for further actions and information.  

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