In 2020, Congress approved a bill to send $150 billion to the states to help deal with the growing COVID-19 pandemic. North Carolina received about $3.6 billion from the package.

In a report to the General Assembly, the North Carolina Pandemic Recovery Office laid out how each dollar was spent. The funding included $100 million for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, tens of millions for face masks and other personal protective equipment, and more than $60 million to get kids and teachers set up to learn online.

“Coronavirus Relief Funds were among the first to get into the hands of local leaders, at a time when we were just beginning to realize the magnitude of COVID-19’s impact on our economy, schools, government services, and healthcare system,” said Stephanie McGarrah, head of the state Pandemic Recovery Office.

What You Need To Know

  • The North Carolina Pandemic Recovery Office is closing out $3.6 billion in federal COVID relief money with an accounting to the General Assembly. Read the full report on CARES Act funding here

  • The funding came from the CARES Act, which sent $150 billion to the states

  • The CARES Act passed Congress and was signed by former President Donald Trump in March 2020, when schools and businesses around the country shut down during the first wave of the pandemic

  • An audit last year criticized the Pandemic Recovery Office for not doing enough to monitor the money sent out to more than 1,700 state agencies, local governments, schools, nonprofits and others

“Closing this chapter is a major achievement for NCPRO’s staff, and everyone who worked with us during one of the most difficult periods in our state’s history,” she said.

The money was part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act. Congress passed the funding bill and former President Donald Trump signed it in late March 2020, as schools and businesses were shuttered during the first wave of cases in the United States.

RELATED: Audit: Billions in pandemic relief funds in N.C. spent with 'limited monitoring'

The state sent most of the money to state agencies, local governments, hospitals, school districts and colleges and universities. The Pandemic Recovery Office said the money went to more than “1,700 state agencies, local governments, hospitals, schools, businesses, and nonprofits.”

Here’s broadly how that money was spent: ​​$1.35 billion to state and local government; $826 million on health programs; $664 million on public services; $478 million on education; $208 million for business relief and recovery; $36 million for individual relief; and $21 million on infrastructure.

The funding was meant to give quick relief to struggling schools, local governments and businesses to help them weather the storm. But it also proved a challenge to oversee the massive funding program.

A 2021 report from the North Carolina Office of the State Auditor criticized the state Pandemic Recovery Office for not doing enough to monitor how the funds were being used.

The audit looked at 490 CARES Act funding recipients in North Carolina. Of those, 43 did not say how they planned to spend the money, and 57 did not report measuring progress toward their goals with the funding.

"As the report states, NCPRO did not independently verify recipient spending by comparing the supporting documents (i.e. invoices, receipts, payroll records) to expenditures reported by recipients until November 2020, after the majority of funds were already spent," according to the report. 

"As a result, there was an increased risk that recipients could have misused the funds without the misuse being detected and corrected in a timely manner," the report said.

State Budget Director Charles Perusse, in his response to the audit last year, said the state created the brand new Pandemic Recovery Office in 2020. But, he said, lawmakers left it understaffed to properly manage the billions of dollars of relief funding flowing to the state.

Perusse said last year that the Pandemic Recovery Office would hire more staff and ask for more money from the General Assembly to oversee the federal recovery funds. Spectrum News 1 has asked the Pandemic Recovery Office for an update on how the staff is monitoring the funds since the audit.