House Bill 1200, which provides $200 million in mortgage, rental and utility assistance, was reviewed last week in a House Appropriations committee meeting. Rep. Szoka presented the current version of the bill and answered questions from members. Response was generally favorable with some members expressing concern about potential fraud or misuse of individual grants. After the hearing there was talk of the bill being rolled into a larger COVID-19 response package. However, by Friday, the Coalition received word that the bill is being stalled. General Assembly members in both chambers have decided to scale back the amount of federal CARES Act money being deployed at this time.
Legislators are concerned about budget gaps resulting from decreased revenue to the state because of the overall decline in economic activity because of the COVID-19 crisis and mandated social distancing. With uncertainty around the public health situation and economic movement, General Assembly members are opting to wait and see whether or not CARES monies can be used for filling budget holes. As passed, the CARES Act specifically does not allow states or local governments to utilize funds for expenditures budgeted before the on-set of the pandemic. NC legislators, in similar fashion to officials in other states, are exploring the potential for using CARES Act resources for budget deficits.
For now, it looks as though HB 1200 will not be moving forward this week. The Coalition and other housing stakeholders are continuing the push for HB 1200’s passage or inclusion in any COVID-19 response packages enacted by the General Assembly. Members are planning to conclude business this week or early next week before going on summer recess.
Data shows that low-income people are more likely to be experiencing job or wage losses due to the pandemic and that black and brown people are experiencing these impacts at higher rates than white households. North Carolina is experiencing record unemployment rates and well-documented delays in getting payments to individuals. The payment assistance that HB 1200 would provide is one step towards balancing the scales of systemic housing inequity by lessening the harm of housing instability during the COVID-19 pandemic.
See below for some ways that you can take action.
- Senate Republicans need to hear from constituents about the need for emergency housing assistance and how it impacts housing providers and their ability to meet their financial obligations.
- Housing developers, owners, managers, investors, and financiers should especially contact state Senators. The need for housing market stability is a particular concern that must be conveyed to Senators.
- Op-Ed on the need for coordinated state housing relief in The Charlotte Observer and The Raleigh News & Observer