The governor's early plan calls for investing federal stimulus funds along with some state resources.
According to Cooper, the federal funds will address:
- Approximately $2 billion for emergency assistance for public and private K-12 schools and higher education institutions
- $336 million for childcare and development block grants
- Approximately $700 million for access to vaccines and testing, tracing and prevention measures to slow the spread of the virus
- $546 million for emergency rental assistance to supplement the HOPE program
- $258 million for Highway Infrastructure
- $65 million for airports
- $47 million for Community Mental Health Services
- Funding for food assistance programs, such as SNAP and school nutrition.
The governor also recommended investing $695 million from the state's General Fund to address other needs that he called "immediate."
WATCH | Cooper unveils COVID-19 budget plan
Those recommendations included:
- $50 million for continued hazard duty pay for state employees on the frontlines of COVID-19, especially law enforcement and corrections personnel who face COVID-19 every day
- $64.5 million for the replenishment of the North Carolina State Health Plan, which has incurred costs responding to COVID-19
- $468 million for one-time bonuses for educators and school personnel in public K-12 schools, community colleges and the university system
- $30 million to extend high-speed internet to all corners of the state and other urgent connectivity initiatives, such as IT infrastructure, security for community colleges and enhancement of 35,000 hotspots used for education
- $37 million to support small businesses that have suffered during the pandemic and often don't have large cash reserves, including small business counselling, marketing for tourism and hospitality, ReTOOLNC program for historically underutilized businesses (HUBs), and the business loan program at Golden L.E.A.F.
- Expansion of state unemployment benefits, which are still among the lowest in the country
Cooper said North Carolina should increase the maximum duration of unemployment benefits to 26 weeks and increase the maximum benefit from $350 to $500 per week.
"I appreciate the work of legislators to quickly pass vital relief as the state responded to the pandemic last year and I believe we can work together to get the job done again. Our communities and people face serious challenges and we must come together to identify areas of common ground and help our people beat the pandemic and thrive once again," he said.
Cooper said the budget plan involved input from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, as well as educators, health experts, business leaders and others.