Tomorrow, the General Assembly will go back into session. We have a lot of work to do to address our state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and I hope that our legislative leaders come back to Raleigh ready to work on a compromise budget that helps all North Carolinians recover from this crisis.

I'm ready to work with my colleagues to expand Medicaid, to increase funding for public schools, and to support our workers and small businesses. In this update, I'll break down a few sections of Governor Cooper's proposed budget. This proposal is just a first step in our budget process, and legislative leaders should unveil their proposal soon. Whatever bill the legislature passes will end up going back to Governor Cooper for his approval or veto.

I encourage you to review the information in this update regarding the Governor's proposed budget and to contact my office with any questions you might have.
Reminder: my office in the General Assembly will be open and utilizing teleworking technologies indefinitely. We are still able to address any questions or concerns you might have. We will just not be physically in the Legislative Building for a short time. You can still contact my office by emailing or by calling 919-715-0795.

Please contact me at any time. I am here to serve you.

Representative Julie von Haefen
The Governor's Budget Proposal
General Overview of the Budget:
Governor Roy Cooper this week shared a recommended budget for Fiscal Year 2020-2021. North Carolina has yet to pass a State Budget for 2020-2021 because the COVID-19 crisis pushed back tax filing deadlines from April 15 to July 15, making it more difficult to estimate revenues for this fiscal year.

Even with this uncertainty, it is important to pass a budget that uses remaining coronavirus federal funding and make responsible investments in the state’s future with the revenues we know we have.

North Carolina has more than $900 million left in federal Coronavirus Relief Funds from the federal CARES Act. This funding will be inaccessible after December 31st 2020, so it's important that we appropriate it now and get it to the people of North Carolina to help us recover from this crisis. Here is Governor Cooper’s plan to spend federal COVID-19 relief funds:

  • $175 million for critical public health services including:
  • $25 million for testing and tracing;
  • $50 million to target rural and historically marginalized populations; and
  • $40 million for early childhood services;
  • $49 million to build a state strategic stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE);
  • $132 million to help K-12 public schools to protect students, teachers and staff and ensure students most impacted by COVID-19 receive support;
  • $200 million in aid for local governments facing budget shortfalls;
  • $50 million to establish an emergency grant program to expand high-speed internet access;
  • $27.5 million to combine with other funds to create a $50 million relief program to support NC businesses with rent, mortgage and utility relief;
  • $18 million to combine with other funds to create a $33 million grant program for Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUB) that have been left out of other support programs;
  • $25 million to provide equipment for health care and first responder workforce programs at community colleges to continue the state’s pipeline of necessary, qualified workers;
  • $25 million to research obstacles to reliable, rapid COVID-19 testing;
  • $50 million in direct aid to food banks, emergency feeding organizations, and community organizations for food and nutrition assistance.

The Governor’s budget also proposes a responsible investment of North Carolina’s state dollars to ensure the state has a stable foundation to succeed in the long-term and emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic stronger:

  • A one-time $2,000 bonus to K-12 public school teachers, instructional support personnel, principals and assistant principals.
  • A one-time $1,000 bonus to K-12 non-certified public school personnel.
  • A one-time $1,500 bonus to UNC System and NC Community College System personnel.
  • $50 million to support the highest needs students, schools, and districts and early childhood education as a part of the state’s commitment to providing a sound basic education to all students.
  • $86.5 million to provide state matching funds for FEMA Recovery programs from Hurricanes Matthew, Florence, Dorian and Isaias, and to assist with recovery in Alleghany County after the August 9 earthquake.
Unemployment Insurance:
Governor Cooper’s budget also proposes the expansion of our state’s unemployment benefits program. Currently, North Carolina has the worst benefits in the country for unemployed workers.

Governor Cooper’s proposal would increase the duration of available benefits from 12 weeks to 24 weeks and increase the maximum weekly benefit from $350 to $500. Any formula-driven unemployment insurance tax increases would be suspended through 2022. This proposal would keep the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund Balance above $2 billion. There is currently $3.05 billion in the fund.
Medicaid Expansion:
The Governor's budget also includes a provision to expand Medicaid and to provide healthcare coverage to 600,000 more North Carolinians who are currently in a health care coverage gap. Expansion is 90% funded by the federal government with the remaining cost paid by health care providers and insurance companies, leaving the state with no additional cost. 

Medicaid Expansion will save lives, but it will also bring billions of dollars back to North Carolina in federal funding to create health care jobs and expand our health care infrastructure.
Infrastructure Bonds:
Through the use of bonds, North Carolina could take advantage of historically low interest rates to improve the state’s health care infrastructure and response to COVID-19. These bonds could also help us make other critical investments in our schools, water and sewer systems and affordable housing. 

The Governor's budget proposes a $988 million health care infrastructure limited obligation bond to support health facilities, public health labs, and vaccine development. In addition, the budget recommends placing a $4.3 billion infrastructure general obligation bond on the November 2021 ballot that would invest:

  • $2 billion in school construction;
  • $800 million for water and sewer infrastructure;
  • $500 million for UNC System facilities;
  • $500 million for the Community College system; and
  • $500 million for affordable housing.

Each $1 million in investment would sustain or create up to 13 direct jobs and 28 indirect jobs, helping support the economy as it recovers. 
COVID-19 Update
Governor Cooper Announces Phase 2.5

Today, Governor Cooper announced that after a summer of hard work to slow the spread of COVID-19, North Carolina will take a modest step forward move into Phase 2.5 starting this Friday, September 4th at 5:00 PM. Phase 2.5 will be in effect until at least October 2nd, at 5:00 PM.

Mask mandates and other prevention methods remain in effect and are even more important to contain the virus. Thanks to our state's efforts to control the spread of the virus this summer, the spread of COVID-19 has stabilized. While stability is a positive sign, we must remain vigilant and each do our part to prevent the spread of this virus.

Follow the link below for a compilation of frequently asked questions about Phase 2.5.
Some updates on restrictions and preventative measures included Phase 2.5 are listed below:

  • Limits on mass gatherings will increase to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors
  • Playgrounds will be allowed to open.
  • Museums and aquariums can open at 50% capacity.
  • Gyms and other indoor exercise facilities can open at 30% capacity.
  • The age requirement for mask wearing with include children down to age 5.

Some things will not change in Phase 2.5:

  • Capacity limits at restaurants and personal care businesses like hair and nail salons will stay the same.
  • Some places will remain closed:
  • Bars
  • Nightclubs
  • Movie Theaters
  • Indoor Entertainment
  • Amusement Parks

I am thankful that North Carolina continues to use a data driven approach to controlling the spread of the coronavirus. Moving into Phase 2.5 is in alignment with the "dimmer switch" approach that Governor Cooper and public health experts at DHHS have been utilizing since the reopening process began this summer.

However, moving into this new phase of reopening does not mean that the danger has passed. We must continue to wear our masks, to wait six feet apart from others in public, and to wash our hands if we are going to safely continue the reopening process.
Duke Energy Returns to Standard Billing
Duke Energy will begin its standard billing practices in North Carolina in the coming weeks, keeping service disconnections for nonpayment suspended until October 2020, a month beyond its required moratorium. Customers who are experiencing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic will have until October to pay overdue balances or make payment arrangements.

Duke Energy will begin proactive outreach in September to offer customers in need the opportunity to establish payment plans.

Additional details can be found here, and in the one-pager linked below.
Office Updates
Support Our Elections - Become a Poll Worker!
Did you know that the United States is facing a nationwide poll worker shortage? Unless younger Americans step up, the resulting shortage of poll workers could cause delays during the election this year. A poll worker shortage is especially problematic for communities of color and working class communities. In short, a poll worker shortage leads to less polling places (and longer lines to vote) and a lower voting turnout.

There are 63 days until election day, and we still need to recruit many more poll workers! That’s why I am working with Campus Compact and Power the Polls to recruit poll workers for the upcoming election.

Not only will you help ensure a safe and secure election, but you can get paid in the process. If you are interested in learning more, follow the link below.