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Thursday August 18th

Here's what the third coronavirus relief package means for North Carolina

<p>Rep. David Price, D-NC, celebrates his re-election at the election night party at the Democratic Headquarters in Raleigh on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018.&nbsp;</p>
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Rep. David Price, D-NC, celebrates his re-election at the election night party at the Democratic Headquarters in Raleigh on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. 

Congress recently passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, the third bill addressing the COVID-19 crisis. The act will invest over $2 trillion to address the needs of individuals, small businesses and state and local governments.

Some relief will come for most Americans in the form of Recovery Rebates, or direct checks. Through this program, each household will receive $1,200 — or $2,400 for married couples who jointly file tax returns — with an additional $500 for each child aged 17 and under.

The amount of these payments begin to decrease for those with a household income over $75,000 if single and $150,000 if married. The checks will be immediately available to those who have filed a tax return, but U.S. Rep. David Price (D-District 4) said people who have not yet filed can still apply.

Some college students are concerned because they aren't specifically addressed in the bill. If a student is still considered a dependent on their parents' taxes, they will not receive a check themselves but they are also too old to be considered a child for their parents to receive payment. 

Price said he hopes these concerns will be addressed. 

"It’s going to be worked out," he said. "It’s something we’ve got to watch the administration very carefully on how they figure this out, and it’s got to be done very quickly.”

The CARES Act also makes changes to the unemployment insurance system. These include:

  • Temporary payments of $600 a week for workers eligible for unemployment compensation
  • Thirteen weeks of federally funded unemployment compensation for those who have exhausted their benefits
  • A Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program to cover self-employed and part-time workers.

"North Carolina has one of the least generous unemployment compensation programs in the country where unemployed people could get some money for a limited number of weeks," Price said. "The federal benefits here are going to be more generous, and they are going to apply to more individuals including self-employed people and people in the so-called gig economy.”

UNC economics professor Patrick Conway said North Carolina is going to have to make a major change to its laws if it wants these types of populations to have access to the federal funds.

"But only those people who qualify for unemployment insurance will get it," he said. "Everybody else, if they apply, they may be turned down, or if not turned down, it may take a month before they’re able to get qualified for this."

He said North Carolina’s current system rejects 90 percent of the people who apply for unemployment insurance. 

As part of his order suspending dine-in service at restaurants and bars, Gov. Roy Cooper temporarily removed some requirements for unemployment insurance at the state level, including removing waiting periods, and allows people with reduced hours due to COVID-19 to apply for benefits. The order does not explicitly address gig workers.

The CARES Act also funds a small business rescue plan totaling $377 billion. The largest portion of these funds — $350 billion — will go toward loan forgiveness grants for small businesses to uphold their current workforce. 

“In other words, the condition of getting those very low-interest loans or no-interest loans is to keep your payroll intact,” Price said.

The remaining $27 billion would go toward the Small Business Administration for emergency grants of up to $10,000 and to cover 6 months of payments for businesses that already have loans from the SBA.

At the state level, the CARES Act is allotting $150 billion as a Coronavirus Relief Fund to address expenditures, such as the need for various health care equipment like ventilators. Exact numbers are not yet known for the relief provided to North Carolina, but estimates from the Tax Foundation and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities say the state should receive around $4 billion. 

Price said it is possible there will be more bills addressing the COVID-19 crisis, either in the form of more emergency relief bills or as a stimulus package similar to what was seen back in 2009 with the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. 

“We’re going to have to have bill number four, maybe bill number five, because again, the public health crisis is one thing and we want to fully fund that, but we also need to have an economic recovery package,” Price said. “Not just making people whole who may need unemployment but also giving the economy the boost to move forward.”


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