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NC House votes to end statewide school mask mandate & “extra” federal unemployment benefits

Raleigh, NC – The state House gave bipartisan approval to two key bills on Wednesday to address the state’s response and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.


Senate Bill 173, the “Free the Smiles Act,” provides local school boards with the authority to determine their own masking policies. An amendment introduced by Rep. Erin Paré (R-Wake) was added to the bill in House Rules Committee that will also require school districts that decide to keep mask requirements in place to have their school boards hold a vote approving their decision by Aug. 1st. Those school boards would have to hold monthly votes for each additional month a district wishes to keep the requirement in place. The legislation now goes to the Senate for further consideration.


Primary bill sponsor, Rep. David Willis (R-Union), said, "I am thankful for the support of our leadership and my fellow House members who voted for this bill. Our students deserve the right to remove their masks in school. The sooner they can get back to normal, the sooner they can begin to put the strain of this past year behind them.”



Senate Bill 116, the “Putting North Carolina Back to Work Act,” ends the state’s participation in the federal government’s “extra” $300 weekly unemployment benefit. The bill also institutes stricter work-search requirements and appropriates $250 million in child care assistance. It now goes to the Governor’s desk.


"This bill is the way to restore strength in our economy, and finally move forward, to put this pandemic in the rear view mirror," said House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland). "This is a common-sense, reasonable approach to taking care of the people of this state, businesses, and the overall economy of this state."


If Senate Bill 116 becomes law, North Carolina will join 25 other states that have opted out of the “extra” federal unemployment supplement.

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