The legislature faulted DMVA for withholding scholarship funding for veterans’ kids during budget fight
DMVA’s own e-mails confirm they knew their funding level in July, but they didn’t disburse a penny until November
DMVA still hasn’t produced all of its records
Raleigh, N.C. — The N.C. Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) runs a scholarship program for children of military veterans.
The legislature has allocated the same amount of funding for DMVA’s scholarship program since 2016, except for last year when the legislature had some extra money and provided DMVA with a one-time boost. DMVA did not spend all of the extra money last year.
By November of this year, DMVA had still not distributed any of the $9.2 million in scholarship funding that had been sitting in its account since July 1, 2019.
This afternoon, Governor Roy Cooper announced that DMVA would increase this semester’s award to students.
Senator Danny Britt (R-Robeson) said, “Since mid-October members of the General Assembly have been hearing about delays from scholarship recipients. We’ve been hard at work ensuring that funds would be paid out. It’s unfortunate that it took five months and a number of WBTV stories to get to this point, but at the end of the day this program is about helping the children of the men and women who risked or lost their lives defending our country. Let’s salute them and move on.”
History of What Happened
On May 3, 2019, the N.C. House of Representatives passed its version of the budget, which allocated $9.19 million to DMVA for the scholarship program.
On May 31, 2019, the N.C. Senate passed its version of the budget, which allocated $9.19 million to DMVA for the scholarship program.
On June 26, 2019, the legislature passed the final budget, which allocated $9.19 million to DMVA for the scholarship program.
On July 1, 2019, DMVA received $9.19 million in its account for the scholarship program.
On July 9, 2019, Governor Cooper offered a budget counter-proposal that contained the same $9.19 million in funding for the scholarship program.
On July 10, 2019, DMVA confirmed with legislative staff the amount of scholarship funding they had for this year: $9.19 million.
But for the next four months, DMVA did not spend a cent. By comparison, in the same time period in 2018, DMVA had spent more than $4 million.
As the semester went on and students’ tuition went unpaid, scholarship recipients began contacting their legislators and DMVA asking why they had not received their scholarship funding.
Some constituents relayed to their legislators what DMVA had said to them: the scholarship funding hasn’t been disbursed because the legislature hasn’t passed a budget. That, of course, is false. The funding was sitting in DMVA’s account.
Similarly, when asked by nonpartisan central staff why DMVA hadn’t spent any money, DMVA responded that they “did not think they had authority to do so without a new enacted biennial budget and with no new certified budget.”
In October, legislators began making public noise about the matter because veterans’ kids were not getting their money. Shortly after news stories began appearing about the issue, DMVA began disbursing the money that had been sitting in its account since July 1, 2019.
DMVA has recently changed its reasoning for not disbursing any funding, saying now that it’s because they expected the legislature to provide more funding later. But DMVA knew how much money it had in June, and confirmed that fact in July. It does not make any sense to withhold all funding because there’s a chance of more funding later.
Senator Britt said, “In the light most favorable to DMVA, they’re incompetent for waiting four months to disburse any of the $9.19 million in scholarship funds they had sitting in their account since July. In the light least favorable to DMVA, they intentionally withheld that money so they could falsely tell recipients that the legislature hadn’t provided any funding. Either way, it’s wrong.”
In November, Senator Britt requested e-mails and other records from DMVA related to the scholarship funding. DMVA contacted Senator Britt last week to drop off the responsive records, but then changed course and is now withholding the records for an indefinite period of time.