Advocacy Blog Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Three Things You Should Know

1: Schools & Reopening in the Carolinas
Governor Cooper announced this week his plan for schools to reopen. All North Carolina public schools can reopen under Plan B, which is a mix of in-person and remote learning for students. Each school district has the choice: 100% remote learning or the combination of in-person and remote learning. School districts across the state will be adopting their plans over the next week or two. Here are the requirements for in-person learning:

• Require face coverings for all teachers and students K-12
• Limit the total number of students, staff and visitors within a school building to the extent necessary to ensure 6 feet distance can be maintained when students/staff will be stationary
• Conduct symptom screening, including temperature checks
• Establish a process and dedicated space for people who are ill to isolate and have transportation plans for ill students
• Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces in the school and transportation vehicles regularly
• Require frequent hand washing throughout the school day and provide hand sanitizer at entrances and in every classroom
• Discontinue activities that bring together large groups
• Limit nonessential visitors and activities involving external groups
• Discontinue use of self-service food or beverage distribution

Recommended Safety Measures:
• Designate hallways and entrance/exit doors as one-way
• Keep students and teachers in small groups that stay together as much as possible
• Have meals delivered to the classroom or have students bring food back to the classroom if social distancing is not possible in the cafeteria
• Discontinue activities that bring together large groups
• Place physical barriers such as plexiglass at reception desks and similar areas

Governor Cooper also announced this week that North Carolina would remain in the phase two portion of his gradual reopening plan. The Governor plans to reassess in three weeks to determine whether the state is ready to move into phase three.

Governor Henry McMaster announced his recommendations regarding schools for the upcoming school year this week. Gov. McMaster has recommended that all South Carolina schools delay the start of the school year until after Labor Day. He will not issue an executive order requiring schools to start after September 7 but is leaving it up to each school district to make the decision.  He has also asked Superintendent Molly Spearman to not approve school reopening plans that do not provide an in-person option for students. Governor McMaster stressed in his comments that parents should have the option to choose in-person or virtual learning for their students.

2: North Carolina & South Carolina Legislatures
The North Carolina General Assembly finished most of their business the week leading up to the 4th of July. One of the major priorities for the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance was to ensure that businesses, educational institutions, local governments, and non-profits had liability protections (only those acting in good faith and complying with guidance) from frivolous lawsuits dealing with COVID-19. The NCGA adopted these protections and they will last until six months after the State of Emergency declaration is rescinded or expires. This gives all organizations the certainty that they need to conduct reopen to conduct their work.

Another priority achieved during the session was contained in House Bill 77. This bill predominantly focused on plugging holes and reforming the North Carolina Department of Transportation. However, seven commercial service airports in North Carolina received state funding in this bill, including Charlotte Douglas and Concord Regional. Our region saw $31 million appropriated for our two commercial service airports.

A couple of bills we were tracking closely did not make it over the finish line in time for this session: Senate Bill 848, which would incentive companies to make new capital investment in North Carolina in 2020 or 2021 by providing relief on their franchise tax bill. The other major bill that did not make it across the finish line was House bill 1225, which was the $3.1 billion education and transportation bond.

As it stands now, the NCGA is not slated to comeback until early September. However, it is possible that Governor Cooper could call them back into session if they need to plug budget holes or if there are additional federal funds to be appropriated.

The South Carolina General Assembly had a very short session in June. They approved a spending bill in the amount of $1.2 billion (all CARES act funds). The biggest appropriation was for the state unemployment trust fund in the amount of $500 million. However, a great win for the region and a priority for the Alliance was the $50 million investment the state made for expanding broadband. The SCGA is slated to come back into session in mid-late September to pass their annual budget.

3: Federal Action
Senate Leader Mitch McConnell indicated over the last week, that Congress is likely to approve another Coronavirus Relief package when Congress reconvenes the week of July 20. There is no clear indication yet of what an additional federal package will look like. However, many expect additional state and local aid, business liability protections, and possibly additional funds for unemployment or another round of stimulus checks.

Posted by: Joe Bost, Senior Vice President, Government Affairs @ 12:00:00 am


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