by Paige Terryberry
Senior Analyst for Fiscal Policy, John Locke Foundation
North Carolina’s state of emergency was set to expire today, April 5th. But given Gov. Roy Cooper’s actions last week, it is clear he is not ready to let the crisis go.
On Friday, Cooper signed an executive order extending the state of emergency (again) until July 15thdespite calls to end the emergency order. And last week Gov. Roy Cooper pleaded to North Carolina’s congressional delegation to put more pressure on Congress for additional Covid funding.
Covid relief was notably absent from the $1.5 trillion federal spending omnibus, H.R. 2471, which Congress passed in March. House Democrats removed the $15.6 billion (whittled down from the originally proposed $22.5 billion) of Covid aid over their disagreement with some members who insisted the money must be made available only by offsetting existing Covid funds from the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) that came from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Unfortunately, less than 10 percent of ARPA went to actual public health measures. Cities are struggling to spend the Covid relief too. A new, standalone Covid relief bill is being discussed.
In his letter to North Carolina’s congressmen, Gov. Cooper asked explicitly for funding for “testing and treatment,” a worthwhile aim.
But the reality is that much of the Covid relief has been unnecessary and has not targeted actual public health. So far, Covid funds have been spent with little accountability or recordkeeping. We do not know how much of these massive stimulus packages have been effective. That is a huge problem, especially as these bills result from unsustainable and inflationary printing and borrowing.
The Biden White House considered an additional $30 billion in Covid relief and continues to push for anything it can wrangle from Congress. Some members of Congress, including both senators from North Carolina, are demanding more accountability for the existing relief. They write, “all told, the nearly $6 trillion in spending on COVID-19 is the single greatest expenditure of public funds on one effort in the history of the nation. However, since passage of the American Rescue Plan in February, questions are mounting about where exactly the additional money has gone.”
They continue, pointing to the “immense fraud” that has occurred. The “federal government’s shocking failure to provide the American public with a faithful accounting of how it has spent its money” is inexcusable.
In education, the lack of accountability is similarly grim. 86 percent of the funding to schools was unspent in December of last year. And much of what is being spent in North Carolina is going to teacher salaries. Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Richard Burr (R-NC) wrote to the Secretary of Education demanding answers to the haphazard strategy. They rightly assert, “We know that more money isn’t the answer.”
The government has spent an unimaginable amount of money on their response to Covid. However, the unfortunate truth is that much of the borrowed and printed money is mismanaged and unspent. In North Carolina, more money and an extended state of emergency are not the answer.