Capitol Roundup is NC Farms Bureau’s weekly video and email report that summarizes key legislative developments and explains in clear terms how those developments affect agriculture.
NCGA Approves More COVID Relief Funding
The N.C. General Assembly came close to wrapping up its short session this week after approving more COVID-19 relief funding, but state lawmakers aren’t quite ready to go home for good yet. They plan to return July 7th to consider any vetoes that Gov. Cooper might issue between now and then. After that, they intend to adjourn until September 2nd and expect to spend just a few days addressing COVID-19 funding issues at that time.
During this short session, state legislators appropriated about $2.1 billion of the $3.5 billion in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding given to North Carolina, and agriculture and rural funding was appropriated through several different bills. In early May, legislators approved a package that awarded the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA & CS) $15 million for livestock depopulation and disposal as needed; $125 million to the Golden LEAF Foundation for its small business bridge loan program; $6 million to the state’s six food banks, with instruction to spend as much as possible with North Carolina farms and vendors; and $9 million for the Growing Rural Economies with Access to Technology (GREAT) broadband expansion grant program.
Since the May spending package was approved, a number of other bills providing money for agriculture and rural needs have passed. Through mini-budget bills, NCDA & CS will get $10 million to expand small livestock processing, workforce development, and plan new facilities; $300 million will go to support county government operations; the N.C. Department of Commerce will get $15 million to market North Carolina businesses; and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission will get $2 million for its “Go Outside” program. Legislation that would have provided funding to aid North Carolina’s dairy industry did not pass.
Also this week, HB 118, COVID-19 Liab. Safe Harbor, passed on Tuesday. As previously reported, the bill expands COVID-19 liability protection for businesses that have taken proper precautions for their employees and customers.