RALEIGH (October 2, 2020) — Last month, North Carolina lawmakers passed a law that would give payments to families to help with virtual schooling and childcare costs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most families are eligible for the $335 one-time payment, and most North Carolina parents who file a 2019 state income tax return will get the payment automatically.

Families must either apply for the grant program using the paper application available here on the North Carolina Department of Revenue website or file a 2019 state tax return, by Thursday, October 15th, 2020.

Families who are not required to file a North Carolina individual income tax return because their income did not exceed the state’s filing requirements (generally $10,000 per year if you are single and $20,000 per year if you are married), may still be eligible. Filers or applicants must have a qualifying child, based on the federal child tax credit for year 2019.

“It is crucial that North Carolina families know what steps, if any, they need to take to receive this direct aid,” says Suzy Khachaturyan, Policy Analyst at the NC Budget & Tax Center, a project of the North Carolina Justice Center. “People who are not required to file a state income tax return need to complete the online application by October 15th. North Carolinians with low incomes are the most likely to be left out of this program and yet are the most in need of additional funds to help make ends meet and support their child’s schooling and childcare related needs.”

This program demonstrates an important effort by the state’s lawmakers to provide aid to North Carolina families with children.

“Direct cash assistance for those most in need is crucial to North Carolina’s strong recovery from the economic harms of the COVID-19 crisis,” says Heba Atwa, Policy Advocate at the NC Budget & Tax Center. “Economic insecurity in our communities will create lasting damage to people’s well-being, children’s development, and neighborhood stability.”

While this program will provide crucial supports for many households across the state, there are opportunities for improvement so that it might reach more families.

“North Carolina needs inclusive, well-targeted cash assistance programs to connect people to the income that will stabilize their households during periods of lost income and work, allow families to meet basic needs and keep money circulating through our local economy,” Atwa said.

“The sponsors of the Extra Credit Grant Program included unnecessary barriers to access for the very parents who need financial support the most,” said Leila Pedersen, Policy Analyst at the NC Budget & Tax Center. “There are existing mechanisms that could better target dollars to families in need without onerous eligibility requirements or wasteful grants for wealthy households.”

For now, it is imperative that North Carolina families with low incomes are aware of the program and know how to act in order to receive this one-time benefit. Parents who did not file taxes because they were not required to file need to complete the application no later than Oct. 15, 2020.