Governor Cooper is failing his state responsibilities as he focuses only on Covid-19 numbers and ignores the impact that his mandates are having on the state’s economy, its residents and businesses.
As we’ve noted previously, the governor has avoided talking with his constituents choosing instead to focus on pandemic statistics. He’s dictated a variety of restrictions that initially were designed to flatten the curve in an effort to avoid a surge of coronavirus cases but now that objective has been reached he is continuing to hold back opening the state based on the fear that we may see a resurgence of the disease.
So what is the governor’s goal here? To flatten the curve by restricting the rapid rise of cases which has been accomplished or the elimination of the disease? If it is the latter then he, Don Quixote like, is tilting at windmills to accomplish something that is outside of his control. He cannot eliminate the disease.
The governor should now focus on issues that are within his control and responsibility. He needs to address the needs of the residents and businesses that have been negatively impacted by the closure of the state’s economy. But the governor is hiding behind the daily COVID-19 statistics while ignoring the state’s unemployment statistics that detail the human and economic impacts of his mandates.
As of May 11 the state reported 15,045 confirmed cases of the virus, 515 had died from the disease and 464 patients were hospitalized. At the same time the state’s department of commerce reported 1,112,790 unemployment claims had been filed and only 487,654 (44 per cent) had been paid. As a result of the paltry unemployment fulfillment numbers North Carolina ranks last in the country for providing timely support for the one million plus citizens out of work.
This newspaper’s online website, Carolinacoastonline.com continues to receive comments from local readers who have been waiting for responses from the state’s employment security commission. In some of the cases the commenters note that the state Division of Employment Security (DES) has responded with promises to begin making payment only to be told later that there is some confusion or dispute that is holding up payments.
One writer noted, ”I filed on March 25, 2020. My status still says pending. In this technological age, there should not be problems like this. Now I am digging into my savings which I shouldn't have to do at this point. Get it together and get your constituents paid.”
Unemployment numbers for both the nation and the state are expected to be 20 per cent by the end of this month. In the case of North Carolina that will mean 2 million people out of work and expecting unemployment compensation. That is a frightening number and a daunting responsibility that doesn’t seem to concern Governor Cooper or officials at DES.
The unemployed are frustrated and in some cases desperate for answers and money. The vast majority of these people are ready to go back to work where they are needed. Not only will their employment support the local economies but they will support the state coffers which are not being filled by sales and payroll taxes and at the same are being drained to support the unemployment benefits.
Many of the services that residents and businesses rely upon are in financial trouble. In some cases the impacts are paradoxical. For example, hospitals, facilities we would anticipate doing well in a major health crisis, are in financial distress because they are restrained from conducting normal operations, activities that generate the profits to maintain highly skilled staff. Because of the reduced or restricted activities dictated by government leaders, most hospitals have had to reduce any of these normal activities resulting in some facilities facing closure. This is just one of many critical industries that need immediate reopening.
The overzealous focus on defeating the pandemic is creating a greater human crisis. The recent United Nations report predicting that the economic fallout from the pandemic will kill more people than the disease should spur all elected officials, starting with Governor Cooper, to focus on the human strategy of recovery.