A second set of bills has been introduced in the N.C. General Assembly that would provide federal CARES Act funding specifically for a Triad city, in this instance Greensboro.
Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, introduced on House Bill 1166 on Wednesday, which requests $3 million in CARES funding for Greensboro from the remaining $1.9 billion in CARES funding that state legislators are holding in reserves. Co-sponsors are Democratic Reps. Ashton Clemmons and Amos Quick of Guilford.
On Thursday, Sens. Gladys Robinson and Michael Garrett, both D-Guilford, introduced Senate Bill 830, which also requests $3 million.
The two bills follow on legislation submitted Tuesday by Sen. Paul Lowe and on May 14 by Reps. Derwin Montgomery and Evelyn Terry, all Forsyth County Democratic legislators.
A substantial COVID-19 relief funding gap exists between Forsyth and Guilford counties because the federal government is limiting direct aid to only counties with at least 500,000 residents.
That decision means that while Forsyth currently will receive $6.4 million from the $4.07 billion CARES package allotment to North Carolina, Guilford gains $93.7 million.
Guilford had 537,174 residents as of 2019, while Forsyth had 382,295 as the state’s fourth largest county. Wake County is receiving $194 million in direct CARES aid, while Mecklenburg County is getting $193.8 million.
Counties in North Carolina below 500,000 in population will receive at least $250,000 for a combined $24.25 million.
The remaining funds are being distributed on a per capita basis using the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 county population totals.
County boards of commissioners can allocate funds to municipalities, but only if “the transfer qualifies as a necessary expenditure incurred due to the public health emergency.”
Harrison said that she and Robinson filed the companion bills “as a concern about Greensboro not getting a significant amount of the CARES funding directed to Guilford County.”
Montgomery said the Forsyth CARES funding “is not sufficient to truly spread across the county to cities and towns to help them respond to this crisis.”
The bill “is a nice political gesture, but has no chance to move forward and be implemented into law,” said Rep. Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth.
“The (COVID-19) working groups took a very deliberate and focused review to allocate to the counties ... in a fair method using a formula to be fair to all counties.
“The General Assembly did not get enough money to single out Winston-Salem, so it will not get much support from the work groups.”
Lambeth said there is “no logic” to Winston-Salem getting so much less in CARES relief funds than Guilford, Mecklenburg and Wake.
Since the main issue is Forsyth and Winston-Salem being excluded from direct CARES relief funding, Lambeth said he “suggested to the city leadership their best option is to ask the congressional delegation to make a federal allocation directly to Winston-Salem.”
The office of Reps. Virginia Foxx, R-5th, could not be reached for comment on whether Foxx plans to make such a request.
With the congressional district map redrawn for the 2020 election, most of Winston-Salem will be in the Sixth District, while most of the county will be in the 10th District.
Taylor Theodossiou, press secretary for Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-10th, said it’s not likely Winston-Salem would get federal funding outside the state allotment from the CARES Act.
“Any entity of local government below that population threshold must apply for funds through their state government,” Theodossiou said. “In this case, the state of North Carolina decided that Forsyth County would get $6 million.”
Harrison said legislators “need clarifying guidance from the federal government on how the CARES money can be spent.”
“But there is a good chunk of the remaining N.C. CARES money not yet allocated.”