On May 4, 2020, Governor Cooper signed Senate Bill 704 (SB 704), which appropriated federal funds to various areas of need throughout the state, and state government, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. SB 704 also amends prior statutes in response to the public health and economic emergencies caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
PART I – ECONOMIC SUPPORT
- Waive accrual of interest on deferred corporate, income, franchise and individual tax payments, and extends some tax-related deadlines;
- Flexibility to administer unemployment compensation; and
- Allows employer tax credits for contributions to the Unemployment Insurance Fund that are due for calendar year 2020.
PART II – EDUCATION
- Waives end-of-grade and end-of-course tests for the 2019-2020 school year;
- Waives requirements for school report cards, school building reports, evaluation of alternative programs, which all rely on assessment and performance data normally collected during the 2019-2020 school year;
- Prohibits the State Board from identifying additional low-performing schools based on data from the 2019-2020 school year; and
- Waives the CPR requirement for grade 12 students assuming graduation eligibility in all other respects is met.
2020-2021 SCHOOL YEAR CALENDAR
- Directs each school district to develop Remote Instruction Plans;
- Directs each public school district to adopt a calendar that includes 190 days of instruction, five of which will be remote instruction days;
- Outlines guidelines for districts to follow regarding 2020-2021 school calendars;
- Districts (on a traditional calendar year) cannot begin student instruction prior to August 17, 2020.
- The school year cannot extend beyond June 11, 2021.
- School improvement plans set to expire at the end of the 2019-2020 school year may remain in effect until December 31, 2020; and
- Amends licensure requirements for teachers, continuing professionals, and other school personnel.
NORTH CAROLINA COMMUNITY COLLEGE SYSTEM
- Students unable to continue participation in apprenticeship programs due to COVID-19 may be eligible for a tuition waiver for community college courses in their documented plan of study until December 31, 2020.
UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA
- Prohibits The University from charging or accruing interest to a student’s past-due account receivable between March 13, 2020 and September 15, 2020; and
- Extends deadlines for reporting to the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee by sixty days.
PART III – HEALTH CARE
- Provides priority COVID-19 antibody testing for front-line care providers, including emergency medical services personnel, firefighters, rescue squad workers, law enforcement officers, licensed health care providers, long-term care providers, child care providers, and other essential care providers;
- Directs NC Area Health Education Center (NC AHEC) to provide education programs and services to improve the health of North Carolinians, with a focus on underserved populations;
- Directs NC AHEC to conduct a study of issues that impact health care delivery and the health care workforce during a pandemic;
- Protects health care facilities and health care providers from liability that may result from treatment of individuals during the COVID-19 public health emergency;
- Requires Division of Child Development and Early Education to temporarily waive requirements for fingerprint-based criminal background checks pertaining to adoptions, foster care, and child care institutions;
- Increases telehealth care access in response to COVID-19; and
- Increases access to telehealth services under the Medicaid Program.
PART IV – CONTINUITY OF STATE GOVERNMENT/REGULATORY RELIEF
- Authorizes notaries commissioned between March 9, 2020 and August 1, 2020 to take up to 90 days to appear before the register of deeds to take the oath of office;
- The required oath can be administered through video conferencing technology if the appointee can produce valid proof of identity, or personally knows the register of deeds.
- Authorizes video witnessing for signatures of record during a declared state of emergency until August 1, 2020;
- Extends time period for lottery winners to submit a delayed claim for lottery prizes expiring between March 10, 2020 and August 1, 2020;
- Extends Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) deadlines for various licenses and permits
- Delays DMV headquarters move from New Bern Avenue (Raleigh), and requires the Department to begin vacating the Raleigh property by October 1, 2020;
- Provides immunity from civil liability to essential businesses;
- Allows licensed soil scientists to evaluate, inspect, and approve on-site wastewater system projects during the coronavirus emergency;
- Allows the Director of the Retirement Systems Division, Department of State Treasurer, to determine a member or beneficiary’s eligibility for interim disability benefits;
- Reduces the reinstatement period from six months to one month of separation for Individuals who retired under the Teachers’ and State Employees’ Retirement System (TSERS) between October 1, 2019 and April 1, 2020, and vacated positions considered essential due to the coronavirus outbreak;
- Grants flexibility to waive interest on procurement;
- Provides for the rescheduling of public hearings during temporary rule making;
- Authorizes the Chief Administrative Law Judge to extend the time period for the filing of contested cases during catastrophes; and
- Allows the North Carolina Department of Emergency Management to utilize a regional council of government to administer Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) public assistance funds on behalf of a unit or units of local government.