Here’s a round up of COVID-19 related news for 4/24/20. See our Coronavirus Resource Guide for extensive resources and information.
Governor Cooper proposes $1.4 billion COVID-19 relief package using federal funds
Governor Cooper released a recommended budget plan to invest $1.4 billion in emergency funds to help North Carolina respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Funding for this proposal would come predominantly from the state’s share of the federal CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) and would be appropriated by the North Carolina General Assembly in its upcoming session.
The budget package is intended to fund immediate needs in three main areas: public health and safety, continuity of operations for education and other government services and assistance to small businesses and local governments.
Key investments from this proposal include:
- $75 million to support testing, tracing and trends analysis as well as have the Personal Protective Equipment needed to help North Carolina move into Phase 1 of easing restrictions;
- $78 million for school nutrition to continue to serve as many as 500,000 meals a day to children who depend on these meals to meet basic nutrition needs typically met in school;
- $75 million for rural and underserved communities and health care providers that are particularly hard hit by COVID-19;
- $243 million for public schools to enhance remote learning and get ready for the next school year in a “new normal.” Funds are a joint request from DPI and the State Board of Education.
- $52 million to the UNC system and private colleges to help with remote learning and COVID-19 impacts;
- $300 million to assist local governments, distributed based partially on population and partially on acute need.
Find a slideshow summary of the budget recommendation.
Read more about the full budget recommendation money report and provision list
State-wide Stay at Home order extended to May 8; Governor proposes phased re-opening
The State-wide stay-at-home order has been extended to May 8. During the April 23rd press conference, Governor Cooper talked about keys to re-opening:
- Increase daily testing from 2,500 – 3,000 tests to 5,000 – 7,000 tests per day
- Increase number of contact tracers in our workforce from 250 to 500 and deploy digital tracing technology
- Continued decrease of COVID-like syndromatic cases
- Decrease or sustained leveling in number of COVID cases
- Decrease in number of positive tests
- Decrease or sustained leveling in number of hospitalizations
- Capacity: Procure adequate supplies to fill PPE requests for at least 30 days – currently the state has less than 30 days’ worth of gowns and N95 masks
- Decision is based on data:
- New cases in NC are still increasing, but at a slower rate
- There has not been a downward trajectory over the past 14 days
- The trajectory of positive tests as a percentage of total tests over 14 days is not declining – but there have been some early, positive signs
- There has not been a downward trajectory of hospitalization over the past 14 days – but the rate has been about level
- Phased Re-Opening
- If infections spike or benchmarks trend in the wrong direction, we may need to move back to a previous phase to keep it under control and keep people safe
NC Unemployment Update
- Nearly $580M has been sent to over 257,000 people who have filed UI claims since the start of the pandemic
- New Executive Order will help workers who have been furloughed but have received severance access UI, when they were previously ineligible for UI
- In the last month, more than 630,000 people have filed for unemployment insurance benefits in North Carolina, mostly due to the impacts of COVID-19. By this week, the Division of Employment Security plans to have more than three times its original staffing in place to respond to the surge in claims and ensure payments go out as quickly as possible. DES expects to have more than 1,600 people working to process claims and issue payments.“This will be the largest number of people working to provide unemployment benefits in North Carolina’s history,” said Lockhart Taylor, assistant secretary of the Division of Employment Security. “We are prepared to take whatever steps we need to take to deliver the help North Carolinians need during these difficult times.”
- In addition to providing state unemployment benefits, DES will issue payments for three different federal programs. This week, DES completed implementation of the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program, which pays an additional $600 in weekly unemployment insurance to eligible claimants. Eligible North Carolinians are now receiving these payments.
- DES estimates its online filing system will be ready to accept claims around April 25 for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the program for individuals not eligible for regular unemployment insurance. The division is also continuing to work on a timeline to provide Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, the federal program that allows for up to 13 additional weeks of benefits.
- Updates about eligibility and how to apply for these benefits can be found on des.nc.gov.
- DES has now paid out a total of more than $350 million to more than 210,000 people for unemployment claims effective as of March 15.
Mission Health to Remove Triage Tents at Local Hospitals
Mission Health announced the organization would be removing the emergency triage tents it placed at its hospitals last month. The tents, which were installed as part of standard emergency planning protocols and for training exercises, were to create additional capacity as the COVID-19 pandemic evolved.
“Fortunately, we have not yet seen widespread transmission of COVID-19 at this point in our community or a surge in our hospitals,” said Kathy Guyette, Division Chief Nursing Executive of the North Carolina Division of HCA Healthcare. “As a result, over the next few weeks we will begin removing the tents from their current locations.”
Should the need arise in the future for the additional space provided by the tents, they can be reassembled in a matter of hours to meet demand.
Congress passes bill adding $480 billion to COVID-19 relief
This week Congress passed a bill adding $480 billion to COVID-19 relief with aid to small businesses and increased testing.
The package includes:
- $310 billion to the SBA Paycheck Protection Program (Read our post: PPP What you need to know and how to apply)
- $75 billion for hospitals and health care providers to address coronavirus expenses and lost revenue
- $25 billion to facilitate and expand Covid-19 testing
- $10 billion added to SBA EIDL (Read our post on SBA loans)
Tax Office Warns of Distraint Warrant Scam Letter
The Buncombe County Tax Department would like to make our community aware of an emerging scam targeting area residents. Our office has received reports that letters, like the one attached, have been sent claiming to be from the Tax Processing Unit of Buncombe County Public Judgement Records. The letter attempts to scare residents to respond by stating “levying procedures will begin within 15 days of its receipt.”
This is not an official letter from Buncombe County. There is no such County agency, and we believe this is an attempt to scam consumers into paying a fake tax debt. There is a bold heading claiming the notice is a Distraint Warrant and a toll free number listed on the letter, which may lead some consumers to believe this is a legitimate communication. This is a fraudulent notice from a fictitious agency and residents should not call the number. The Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office is investigating this phone number. Please call (828) 250-4436 if you have any information to report.
Pisgah Health Foundation – Sharecare – Blue Zones Project launch new Tool to monitor symptoms and risk around COVID-19
As the novel coronavirus continues to be of concern across our community and country, Pisgah Health Foundation launched a valuable new tool to help residents of our community monitor their symptoms and risk around COVID-19. A COVID-19 symptom screener is now available on their website to help you anonymously self-screen to understand the chances that your symptoms are caused by the novel coronavirus and guide you on how to get care.
Through collaboration with Blue Zones Project and Sharecare, Pisgah Health Foundation is making available a COVID-19 symptom screener on their website to help you understand the likelihood that your symptoms are caused by the novel coronavirus, take appropriate actions to get care, and “flatten the curve.”
You can access the symptom screener by visiting https://pisgahhealthfoundation.org/ and clicking the COVID-19 chat icon.