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NCSBA Legislative Alert – March 20, 2020

The Fight Against the Coronavirus

This is the first of weekly Legislative Alerts that the NCSBA Governmental Relations team will be sending out each Friday afternoon as the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to affect our districts, our state, our country, and the world. We will be covering actions taken by the Governor, the NC General Assembly, the State Board of Education, the federal government, and other governing bodies in this fight against the coronavirus. Additionally, NCSBA has created a webpage that provides information and resources about COVID-19, which includes links to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

From the Governor and the Department of Health and Human Services

    • On February 11 Governor Cooper issued his first press release concerning the coronavirus, which announced the creation of a state Novel Coronavirus Task Force, recommended steps to prevent the spread of the virus, and provided resources to learn more about the virus.
    • On March 3 the Governor and the Task Force held a press conference announcing the first North Carolinian to test positive for the COVID-19.
    • On March 10 the Governor declared a state of emergency in response to the coronavirus in Executive Order 116. The press release contains recommendations from DHHS regarding high-risk persons, congregate living facilities, mass gatherings, travel, and workplace settings.
    • On March 12 Governor Cooper announced that there were currently 15 reported cases of the coronavirus in North Carolina. DHHS provided further recommendations, including recommendations for schools.
    • On March 14 the Governor issued Executive Order 117. The press release highlighted the closing of K-12 public schools, the banning of gatherings of more than 100 people, and the creation of the Governor’s Education and Nutrition Working Group.
    • On March 17 Governor Cooper announced Executive Order 118 that closed restaurants and bars for dine-in/sit-down customers, but continues to allow takeout and delivery.
    • On March 18 the Governor issued a press release about the NC 2-1-1, which provides free and confidential information on health and human services and a phone number that North Carolinians can use to sign up for alerts about the virus.
    • On March 19 Governor Cooper announced that his request for the U.S. Small Business Administration to provide aid for business owners in North Carolina that are experiencing economic losses as a result of the coronavirus had been granted.

DHHS created a webpage to keep North Carolinians updated on the State’s response to COVID-19.

Governor’s Education and Nutrition Working Group

NCSBA is a member of the Governor’s Education and Nutrition Working Group that is tasked with ensuring the health, safety, educational needs, and wellbeing of children during school and childcare closure, as directed by Governor Cooper’s Executive Order 117. The Working Group met for the first time on Thursday, March 19 and established the following goals:

    • Ensure families have access to safe, affordable childcare and out-of-school-time care options, especially healthcare workers and other front-line workers
    • Ensure children have access to nutritious food while schools and childcare programs are closed
    • Ensure children continue to participate in structured learning while schools and childcare programs are closed

The Working Group shared the following about each of its goals:

    • Childcare
      • 50% of childcare centers are still open
      • A hotline is being developed to connect available care with parents in essential industries like healthcare and emergency management
      • At this time, the arrangement of childcare for essential personnel will not be free, but funding sources are being sought
    • Nutrition
      • All LEAs are participating in food distribution for students
      • An app will be released next week that allows students and parents to find nearby food distribution points
      • DPI is trying to locate any underserved areas
    • Online learning

If you have concerns about these issues that you would like the Working Group to address, please email Richard Bostic at rbostic@ncsba.org.

 

From the NC General Assembly

According to a memorandum from legislative leaders on Thursday, March 12, the General Assembly has cancelled all committee, commission, and task force meetings until April 1 at the earliest. Legislators and legislative staffers will be working remotely until April. The General Assembly is still set to convene in the 2020 short session on Tuesday, April 28. Click here to access the memo. Click here to access the NC General Assembly’s webpage concerning the coronavirus.

House Select Committee on COVID-19

On Thursday, March 19 House Speaker Tim Moore appointed 72 legislators to the new House Select Committee on COVID-19. The Select Committee will meet remotely and, unless directed by the Speaker, will only meet in its four working groups: health care, economic support, continuity of state operations, and education. The Select Committee may study the following:

    • Documented and anticipated economic impacts associated with the spread of COVID-19
    • Measures necessary to provide economic and regulatory relief
    • Existing authorities, procedures, policies, and resources dedicated to responding to the spread of infectious diseases like COVID-19
    • Legislative actions to more effectively address the impacts and challenges caused by COVID-19
    • Measures necessary to maintain the essential functions of North Carolina government during a pandemic

The Select Committee may submit an interim report and a final report of its findings, including any proposed legislation. Speaker Moore appointed Representatives John Fraley, R-Iredell; Craig Horn, R-Union; and Ashton Clemmons, D-Guilford to be the chairs of the education working group. Click here to access the Speaker’s announcement of the Select Committee, which provides a full list of committee and working group members.

 

From the State Board of Education and the Department of Public Instruction

The SBE held conference call meetings on March 14 and March 18. The following topics were discussed in the meetings.

The SBE also released two memorandums that provide guidance to school and district leaders regarding personnel matter, school facilities, and clarification related to the issue of teachers working remotely during the statewide closure of schools. Click here and here to access the memorandums.

 

From Congress

Congress has approved H.R. 6201: Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which guarantees free coronavirus testing, establishes paid leave, enhances Unemployment Insurance, expands food security initiatives, and increases federal Medicaid funding. The portions of the bill of interest to the education community are as follows (summaries provided by Congressional staff).

    • The bill includes a general provision that allows the Department of Agriculture to approve state plans to provide emergency Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) food assistance to households with children who would otherwise receive free or reduced-price meals if not for their schools being closed due to the COVID-19 emergency. In order to be eligible, the child’s school must be closed for no less than 5 consecutive days.
    • The Legislation allows all child and adult care centers to operate as non-congregate (i.e. allows them to take food to go). Allows the Secretary of Agriculture to waive meal pattern requirements in child nutrition programs if there is a disruption to the food supply as a result of the COVID-19 emergency. Provides the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to issue nationwide school meal waivers during the COVID-19 emergency, which will eliminate paperwork for states and help more schools quickly adopt and utilize flexibilities.
    • The bill requires employers with fewer than 500 employees and government employers to provide employees two weeks of paid sick leave, paid at the employee’s regular rate, to quarantine or seek a diagnosis or preventive care for coronavirus; or paid at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate to care for a family member for such purposes or to care for a child whose school has closed or child care provider is unavailable, due to the coronavirus.
      • Full-time employees are entitled to two weeks (80 hours), and part-time employees are entitled to the typical number of hours that they work in a typical two-week period.
      • The bill ensures employees who work under a multiemployer collective agreement and whose employers pay into a multiemployer plan are provided with leave.

Click here for a full summary of H.R. 6201.

The Act, and the requirements under the Act, expire on December 31, 2020.

 

 

 

Leanne E. Winner
Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
(919) 747-6686

Bruce Mildwurf
Associate Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
(919) 747-6692

Richard Bostic
Assistant Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
(919) 747-6677

Rebekah Howard
Governmental Relations Research Specialist
N.C. School Boards Association
(919) 747-6688

Rebekah HowardNCSBA Legislative Alert – March 20, 2020