United StatesNorth Carolina

COVID-19 expenses cost North Carolina $300M during initial months of pandemic

A worker wears protective gear while disposing of trash at PruittHealth Carolina Point in Orange County near Durham, N.C., on Thursday, April 23, 2020.

(The Center Square) – North Carolina accumulated more than $300 million in COVID-19-related costs during the first four months of the pandemic, according to a report sent to the federal government.

The interim expense report, which runs from March 1 through June 30, specifies the costs by categories. States are asked to file the reports because the expenses are being paid through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

The report comes a month after the General Assembly approved a second coronavirus relief package for the state. Gov. Roy Cooper signed the bill July 1. It allocated from federal funds $150 million to support local governments and included $100 million for state agencies, among other things. It was an extension of the state’s first relief bill, which passed the Legislature in May and provided $1.6 billion in federal aid.

The CARES Act, authorized by Congress in late March, earmarked more than $4 billion for North Carolina to cover COVID-19-related expenses. The act also provided states relief through other programs.

Local governments with more than 500,000 residents received 45 percent of the funds directly from the U.S. Treasury. Smaller counties are supposed to receive an even share of the $150 million and are required to disperse 25 percent to its municipalities, according to U.S. Treasury guidelines.

The interim expense report showed more than $178 million has been transferred to local governments, which accounted for 59 percent of COVID-19-related costs.

North Carolina’s second-largest expense was public health as the state fights to contain the novel coronavirus.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services reported 1.5 million COVID-19 tests have been conducted statewide as of Thursday. The department also has had to extend social services for foster care and in rehabilitation centers, among other things.

States also were required to stock up on personal protective equipment, meant to shield people from the contagious virus as businesses and other establishments continue to operate. According to the expense report, the state has spent about $35 million on public health and $14 million on medical expenses, a total of 17 percent of expenses.

About $23 million was spent paying overtime to first responders and public health employees. The state also spent about $1.5 million to operate remotely, including more than $672,000 for “improvements to telework capabilities of public employees.”

About $22 million was spent on distance learning, and the state said it spent $28 million on economic support.

The North Carolina Office of State Budget and Management did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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