For a complete look at federal and state action related to the coronavirus, visit MWC’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Facts and Resources website.
A note from Bo Heath, Senior Vice President and Director, McGuireWoods Consulting North Carolina:
Over the last few weeks, the McGuireWoods Consulting team in Raleigh has been diligently monitoring the spread of COVID-19. The health and safety of our team, our clients, and all North Carolinians is our number one priority. We are working closely with state and local leaders and our clients to anticipate and mitigate any fallout to our clients, our firm, and our community.
I want you to know that while, like many others, we have shifted to an optional work-from-home model, our office remains open, even if we are working remotely. To the extent possible, there will be no disruption in our team’s availability to service our clients and help our community. We strive to maintain the same high standard of service that we have always provided.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if we can help you navigate this rapidly-changing landscape.
Stay safe and healthy,
Bo Heath Senior Vice President and Director McGuireWoods Consulting
North Carolina takes on COVID-19
North Carolina’s leaders have been working overtime to make the state’s adjustments to the new normal as smooth and seamless as possible. Changes have been made to existing policies to help draw down federal relief dollars and provide the flexibility state agencies need in order to nimbly and effectively help North Carolinians. Here is a quick overview of the major changes made in the state over the last few weeks:
- March 10: Governor Cooper declared a state of emergency in Executive Order No. 116, invoking the Emergency Management Act. This move loosened restrictions to the supply chain, moved to protect consumers from price gouging, and allowed greater access to state and federal funding. It also stated the necessity to provide first responders and medical workers with all necessary personal protective equipment. In the EO, Cooper established the Novel Coronavirus Task Force on COVID-19 to work with state, local, and federal partners to help the state navigate this emergency. NC’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) organized a Public Health Incident Management Team to navigate the health impacts of COVID-19 on the state. The EO protected NC’s agricultural sector against an economic loss of goods that are ready to be harvested by temporarily releasing farmers from trucking weight restrictions on crops and livestock ready to be harvested. The EO delegates power to Sec. Erik Hooks of the NC Department of Public Safety to implement the state’s response plan and deploy the State Emergency Response Team, in coordination with Sec. Mandy Cohen of DHHS and the State Health Director, Dr. Elizabeth Tilson. It authorized the hiring of temporary employees and contractors both at DHHS and at local health departments to help with the demand. It encouraged private laboratories and universities to do what they can to help with testing availability. It also, notably, temporarily waived NC medical licensure requirements for health care and behavioral health care personnel. This allows those professionals who are licensed in other states to practice in NC, hopefully alleviating the shortage of critical health workers in the state. It waived the DHHS formula requirements for aid-to-county funding and opened access to the State Emergency Response and Disaster Relief Fund. It also loosened procurement protocols to expedite the purchase of vital services and supplies. Additionally, the EO loosened rules around medicaid funding the treatment of and testing for COVID-19.
- March 14: Gov. Cooper issued Executive Order No. 117, prohibiting mass gatherings of more than one hundred persons, and closing K-12 public schools statewide at least through March 30. The EO directed DHHS, the Department of Public Instruction, and the State Board of Education to work together to address educational, nutritional, and safety needs of displaced students. The EO also urged the public to practice social distancing and proper hygienic techniques.
- March 17: Gov. Cooper issued Executive Order No. 118, limiting operations of bars and restaurants to drive-through or curbside pickup only, broadening unemployment benefits, and granting more flexibility to state agencies. This EO also gave the State Health Director some quarantine and isolation authority. This EO expires March 31.
- March 17: The NC Department of Revenue announced late filing penalties will be waived until July 15. By law, interest charges cannot be waived.
- March 19: The SBA granted Gov. Cooper's March 13 request for an SBA disaster declaration to open up aid for NC small businesses through SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans. Applications looking for SBA help may apply here.
- March 19: Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) created the House Select Committee on COVID-19. The committee is broken up into four working groups: Education, Continuity of State Operations, Economic Support, and Health Care.
For the most current information on North Carolina's COVID-19 response, North Carolinians may dial 211 from their phone or visit the NCDHHS dedicated coronavirus website. For the latest national information, check the CDC website.
Legislative Working Groups
This week, North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) announced that he would be forming crisis response legislative working groups led by members of both parties to address the issues the state faces in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The working groups will meet virtually and work remotely on potential legislative action to help North Carolinians get through these uncertain times. The select committee's legislative working groups welcome suggestions and policy or budget recommendations from the public. Have an idea you would like to share with state lawmakers? Email [email protected].
The House Select Committee on COVID-19 is broken up into four working groups:
1. Health Care Working Group
- Rep. Josh Dobson, Chair (R-McDowell)
- Rep. Donny Lambeth, Chair (R-Forsyth)
- Rep. Perrin Jones, Chair (R-Pitt)
- Rep. Donna White, Chair (R-Johnston)
- Rep. Carla Cunningham, Chair (D-Mecklenburg)
- Rep. Becky Carney, Chair (D-Mecklenburg)
- Rep. Gale Adcock (D-Wake)
- Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield (D-Wilson)
- Rep. Verla Insko (D-Orange)
- Rep. Garland Pierce (D-Scotland)
- Rep. Larry Potts (R-Davidson)
- Rep. Wayne Sasser (R-Stanly)
- Rep. Larry Yarborough (R-Person)
- Rep. Lee Zachary (R-Yadkin)
2. Economic Support Working Group
- Rep. Julia Howard, Chair (R-Davie)
- Rep. Jason Saine, Chair (R-Lincoln)
- Rep. Michael Wray, Chair (R- Northampton)
- Rep. Kelly Alexander (D-Mecklenburg)
- Rep. John Autry (D-Mecklenburg)
- Rep. Chaz Beasley (D-Mecklenburg)
- Rep. Jimmy Dixon (R-Duplin)
- Rep. Kyle Hall (R-Stokes)
- Rep. Yvonne Holley (D-Wake)
- Rep. Chris Humphrey (R-Lenoir)
- Rep. Howard Hunter (D-Hertford)
- Rep. Jake Johnson (R-Polk)
- Rep. Brenden Jones (R-Columbus)
- Rep. Keith Kidwell (R-Beaufort)
- Rep. Nasif Majeed (D-Mecklenburg)
- Rep. Pat McElraft (R-Carteret)
- Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson)
- Rep. Robert Reives (D-Chatham)
- Rep. William Richardson (D-Cumberland)
- Rep. Stephen Ross (R-Alamance)
- Rep. Michael Speciale (R-Craven)
- Rep. Phil Shepard (R-Onslow)
- Rep. John Szoka (R-Cumberland)
- Rep. Brian Turner (D-Buncombe)
- Rep. Harry Warren (R-Rowan)
3. Continuity of State Operations Working Group
- Rep. John Bell, Chair (R-Wayne)
- Rep. David Lewis, Chair (R-Harnett)
- Rep. Darren Jackson, Chair (D-Wake)
- Rep. Jamie Boles (R-Moore)
- Rep. Mark Brody (R-Union)
- Rep. Allison Dahle (D-Wake)
- Rep. Elmer Floyd (R-Cumberland)
- Rep. Holly Grange (R- New Hanover)
- Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford)
- Rep. Frank Iler (R-Brunswick)
- Rep. Joe John (D-Wake)
- Rep. Grier Martin (D-Wake)
- Rep. Allen McNeill (R-Randolph)
- Rep. Carson Smith (R-Pender)
- Rep. Sarah Stevens (R-Surry)
- Rep. Larry Strickland (R-Johnston)
- Rep. John Torbett (R-Gaston)
- Rep. Shelly Willingham (D-Edgecombe)
4. Education Working Group
- Rep. John Fraley, Chair (R-Iredell)
- Rep. Craig Horn, Chair (R-Union)
- Rep. Ashton Clemmons, Chair (D-Guilford)
- Rep. Lisa Stone Barnes (R-Nash)
- Rep. Hugh Blackwell (R-Burke)
- Rep. Cecil Brockman (D-Guilford)
- Rep. Kevin Corbin (R-Macon)
- Rep. Jeffrey Elmore (R-Wilkes)
- Rep. Susan Fisher (D-Buncombe)
- Rep. Rosa Gill (D-Wake)
- Rep. Bobby Hanig (R-Currituck)
- Rep. Jon Hardister (R-Guilford)
- Rep. Pat Hurley (R-Randolph)
- Rep. Marvin Lucas (D-Cumberland)
- Rep. Graig Meyer (D-Orange)
- Rep. John Sauls (R-Lee)
Federal Response and Funding for Coronavirus
Congress has been scrambling over the last few weeks to put together comprehensive relief packages to help fund and regulate coronavirus response efforts across all levels of government. Two aid packages have already been passed and signed into law. A third, proposed in the US Senate yesterday, will likely pass in the coming days. The bills have grown in both scope and cost, with the first allocating just $8.3 billion and the proposed third bill carrying a price tag upwards of $1 trillion.
1. Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act: The first of the three bills, this Act focuses on vaccine research, state government aid, and telehealth access, among other things. The bill, passed March 4, allocates $8.3 billion to begin addressing needs across the country, including:
- $3 billion will go to research and development on treatment, tests, and vaccines. $826 million of that goes to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
- $100 million will go to community health centers.
- $300 million will ensure that any vaccine developed in the US will be provided free of charge to Americans who are unable to pay for it.
- $2.2 billion will go to the CDC to help orchestrate preparedness efforts. $950 million of that will go to support state and local health response efforts.
- $400 million will go to state and local governments, with each state guaranteed at least $4 million.
- $490 million will help get medicare beneficiaries free telehealth access, with the hope of keeping sick people out of waiting rooms where more could become infected.
- $20 million will assist the Small Business Administration (SBA), with the promise of another $136 million to come.
- $1.3 billion will move to the State Department and to the US Agency for International Development, raising the cap on emergency evacuations from $10 million to $100 million.
2. Families First Coronavirus Response Act: This bill, which originated in the House, was signed into law March 18. It provides guidance on response efforts, loosens regulatory hurdles, and allocates another $104 billion to response and preparedness. This bill contains a compromise over tax credits for employers. Some legislators argued that many emergency benefits would have had to be paid by the employer up front - forcing them to shell out money months before they could have it reimbursed through quarterly federal tax credits. Some were of the opinion that those up-front costs could sink many small businesses. The compromise allows for businesses that employ less than 50 people to have the option to apply for hardship waivers so they do not have to pay for sick and family leave out of pocket. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin made it clear that some businesses will be eligible for an advance to help with cash flow. The bill contains a number of other appropriations and regulatory changes, and provides for:
- Paid sick leave - the compromise capped it at up to $511 per day for up to two weeks.
- Paid family leave - gives workers 2/3 of their pay for up to ten weeks if their children's schools are closed. The compromise capped that pay at $200 per day.
- Free coronavirus testing.
- Expanded food assistance.
- Expanded unemployment benefits and grants to states for processing and paying claims.
- Required protections for healthcare workers.
- Supplemental appropriations to USDA for nutrition and food assistance programs.
- Appropriations to DHHS for elderly nutrition assistance programs.
- Waivers for school meal programs.
- Suspension of work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
- Protection of healthcare workers by requiring the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to develop and implement an infectious disease control plan.
- Establishment and funding of a paid leave benefits program for employees taking unpaid leave.
- Temporary increases to the Medicaid federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP).
Here is a more in-depth breakdown of the bill:
- Division A: Supplemental Appropriations Act
- $500 million for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.
- $400 million for the Commodity Assistance Program for the emergency food assistance program.
- $100 million for nutrition assistance grants for American territories.
- $82 million for Department of Defense Defense Health Program.
- $15 million to the Internal Revenue Service for taxpayer services.
- $64 million to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHS) for Indian health services.
- $250 million to DHS for the Aging and Disability Services Program, for nutritional and other needs.
- $1 billion to the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund to pay provider claims for reimbursement for health services related to SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19.
- $30 million to the Veterans Health Administration for medical services.
- Additional $30 million for “medical community care."
- Includes reporting requirements for federal agency heads; requires state and local governments to report real-time data on testing and results to their state emergency operations center per CDC guidelines, and that data must then be reported to the CDC.
- Division B: Nutrition Waivers "Maintaining Essential Access to Lunch for Students Act" or the MEALS Act
- Temporarily waives a number of regulatory hurdles to allow students continued access to meals while schools are shut down.
- Provides waivers and increased flexibility for SNAP benefits for low-income and jobless workers.
- Division C: Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act
- Amends to the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 to accommodate needs surrounding a public health emergency and define public health emergency leave/
- Division D: Emergency Unemployment Insurance Stabilization and Access Act
- Allocates $1 billion to allow the Secretary of Labor to make emergency administration grants to states in the Unemployment Trust Fund/
- (Side note: NC Gov. Roy Cooper (D) has waived many filing requirements, allowing the state to be eligible for the federal relief funds. Filings have jumped dramatically, flooding NC’s Division of Employment Security, locking up the phone lines and crashing the website. NC’s current unemployment trust fund has a nearly $4B nest egg in it right now.)
- Division E: Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act
- Allows for paid sick leave for people who, in relation to COVID-19, are ill, are caring for someone who is ill, are caring for children whose schools have been closed due to the virus, or some other similar situation.
- Covers full- and part-time employees, and provides protections against unpaid leave and termination for employees who have to take leave time.
- Division F: Health Provisions
- Requires health insurance providers to provide and cover the cost of in vitro diagnostics and associated expenses.
- Covers COVID-19 testing under medicare, medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
- Provides a state option to provide coverage for uninsured individuals.
- Treats personal respiratory protective devices as covered countermeasures.
- Increases the FMAP for each state and territory by 6.2 percentage points each quarter.
- Clarifies secretarial authority regarding medicare telehealth visits.
- Division G: Tax Credits for Paid Sick Leave and Paid Family and Medical Leave
- Establishes guidelines for tax credits for employers who had staff take qualified sick leave, as well as certain health plan expenses.
- Establishes criteria for some self-employed individuals to receive a tax credit for qualified sick leave as well.
- Provides guidelines around a payroll credit for employers whose staff took paid family leave and for self-employed individuals who did the same.
3. Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act: This third piece of proposed legislation announced by Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) yesterday, if passed, will be the largest of the three aid packages, coming in at over $1 trillion. Senate Democrats have expressed their displeasure with the proposal, particularly regarding the industry bailouts. Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has said the money should be guaranteed to go to workers in the struggling industries first, not to business executives or corporate shareholders. As negotiations commence and bill language starts to solidify, we will keep you posed on what provisions will be included in the final bill. For now, some of the proposed provisions in the over 250-page bill include:
- Direct payments to Americans called “recovery rebates,” of $1,200 per person or $2,400 for couples who file jointly if the taxpayers make less than $75,000 annually individually. The bill would provide an additional $500 per child in the household. Some Republican senators think this money should go to small businesses instead, allowing them to keep their employees and maintain operations. Others think the money should instead go directly to supplement state unemployment systems.
- $208 billion in loans for airlines and other major industries that are hardest hit. Some see this loan as a bailout, but Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL) is billing the appropriation as a collateralized loan to jeopardized industries.
- $300 billion in forgivable small business bridge loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA), with restrictions on how those loans can be spent. Salaries, mortgages, debts, payroll support, medical and family leave, and healthcare are all accepted expenses.
- A delay in the federal tax filing deadline from April 15 to July 15.
Coronavirus: Resources and How To Help
As we all begin to feel the effects of this global pandemic, here are a few resources to help navigate any questions you have and a few ways to help those in need, even from your own home.
- Travel plans changed due to the spread of the coronavirus? Click here to find out more about suspended flights and free flight changes or refunds.
- Where has the coronavirus spread? How many cases are there globally? Click here for a map of the most recent COVID-19 global data.
- Looking for ways to help those in need that have been impacted by the spread of the virus? Check out this list of groups and organizations around the Triangle that could use your support.
- Does your group need support during this time? Submit other ways people around the Triangle can help their community here.
- With local restaurants closing to prevent the spread of the virus, there are still many that remain open for takeout. Check out this list of local restaurants you can support by ordering to-go.
- Our local food banks are relied upon now more than ever as food insecure families continue to face the question, where is my next meal going to come from? Our local food banks, like the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, can really use your help! This month, for every $1 donated, Food Bank CENC is able to provide 10 meals. For more information on the community services affected by the coronavirus outbreak, click here, or to donate, click here.
- Healing Transitions provides freedom from addiction through long-term recovery and dignity through a non-medical detox and overnight emergency shelter to those in-need. The COVID-19 outbreak has led to a decline in donations, both financially and in much-needed supplies, and Healing Transitions could really use your help. Detox facilities are licensed and are required to provide food that is individually packaged. Next time you make a run out to the grocery store and you see individually wrapped pretzels, chips, granola bars, juice boxes, and the like, consider picking up an extra box and dropping it by Healing Transitions at any time! Click here for more information on Healing Transitions and how you can help.