Lawmakers consider stimulus checks for North Carolina parents, temporary increase in unemployment benefits

State News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Republican leaders in the General Assembly are discussing plans to send stimulus checks to parents and temporarily increase state unemployment benefits when they return to Raleigh for a brief session this week. 

Sources familiar with the discussions said legislators are negotiating a plan to send parents stimulus checks worth at least $200 using a portion of the state’s share of funding from the federal CARES Act. The payments could be a flat amount sent to each family or a dollar amount per child. Legislators were still discussing details of the proposal Monday. 

It’s unclear what the total cost of the payments would be, but it’s estimated to be hundreds of millions of dollars. 

The payments are meant to help parents offset the costs of transitioning to home schooling or remote learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic. More details are expected to be released Tuesday. 

Lyssa Barnes said she quit her job as a music teacher at a day care to be able to teach her son, 6-year-old Everett, at home. 

“I had to leave my job so that we could homeschool him because he has sensory processing disorder, which means he would not sit in front of a computer for five hours a day or however long they have to do it,” she said. “I feel like there’s things we need for our curriculum like a microscope, or a globe. And, you’d be surprised how expensive a globe is on Amazon.” 

State lawmakers will be in Raleigh this week to vote on how to spend about $900 million in remaining funds from the CARES Act, which Congress passed earlier this year in response to the pandemic. 

Gov. Roy Cooper (D) laid out his priorities for the money last week.

Republican leaders in the House and Senate have agreed to boost state unemployment benefits by $50 per week for the rest of the year, using CARES Act money. Cooper had called for the maximum payment to be increased from $350 per week to $500. 

Sen. Chuck Edwards (R-48th District) said if the Republican legislative proposal passes and is signed into law, it would increase benefits for all people who qualify for state benefits by $50 per week, which he said would impact more people. It would apply to people who qualify beginning in September. 

“So many people out there are hurting right now. So many are struggling to figure out how to put groceries on their table,” said Edwards. “We simply have to look for ways to help supplement their income right now until the governor is able to, or at least willing to, help folks get back to work.” 

This money would be in addition to the $300 per week federal benefits authorized by President Donald Trump in his executive order earlier in April. 

Republicans in the legislature have faced criticism for not increasing state benefits during the pandemic after they voted to cut them in 2013. 

Sen. Wiley Nickel (D-Wake) said the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund has about $3 billion in it, so he believes the state could afford a larger increase to benefits than $50 per week. 

“It’s much more responsible and does much more to move the needle to really help North Carolinians,” he said. “With 8.5 percent unemployment, it’s pouring rain out there. And, we need to help throw jobless workers a lifeline.”

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