Recent reports of personal bankruptcies resulting from job losses due to diminished business activity because of the COVID-19 pandemic once again stand in stark contrast to Governor Cooper’s political rhetoric and recent news announcements.
Earlier this week Cooper announced that UPS, benefiting from a $10.23 million taxpayer-funded grant, has promised to expand its facilities in Guilford County, providing 141 additional jobs, and to build a new facility in Alamance County that is anticipated to create 451 new jobs.
Last week, Austin Weinstein, a reporter for The North Carolina News Collaborative, a coalition of 27 statewide daily newspapers, authored a story highlighting the growing number of personal bankruptcies because of the current economic impacts of the governor’s mandates and public fears resulting from the pandemic. More than 3,000 bankruptcies were filed in the state between April and September of this year despite the federal, state and local efforts to forestall the economic impacts of closure mandates from government officials. And according to economists quoted in Mr. Weinstein’s article, more bankruptcies are expected.
On several occasions we have opined on this page about Cooper’s obvious callous unconcern about the impacts of his draconian restrictions on business operations in his efforts to control the COVID-19 contagion, while at the same time he has bragged about new business investment from large companies locating in North Carolina. In July we criticized the governor’s photo-op at a new healthcare lab opening in Durham and in another editorial we questioned the announcement that the United States Golf Association (USGA) is establishing a second headquarters facility in Pinehurst. All of these announcements have involved taxpayer-supported Job Development Investment Grants (JDIG).
Now the governor proudly announces another investment made by a major company that is benefiting from the state’s tax coffers.
As the governor announced the success of enticing large companies to invest in construction projects and promised jobs using JDIG funds, he has said absolutely nothing about the tens of thousands of North Carolinians currently out of work and suffering financially because of his mandated business restrictions.
Weinstein’s story on the state’s bankruptcy numbers noted that two coastal counties, Tyrrell and Washington, identified by the N.C. Commerce Department as economically distressed or Tier-1 counties, had the highest rate of individuals declaring bankruptcies. “There were more than four bankruptcies for every 10,000 residents in those counties,” Mr. Weinstein writes.
Other statistics noted in the article include the average age of (all) those who filed was 53 and that black residents “filed bankruptcy at a rate 50% greater than white residents.”
The governor’s continued interest in publicity announcements about big business investments that are benefiting economically sound communities such as Guilford and Alamance (Tier-3 counties) and not the economically distressed counties such as Washing and Tyrell (Tier-1) as the program is designed, is very telling.
These announcements show that the governor has little or no interest in the less populated, usually rural, low wealth counties. Considering these counties are of less political importance both in voting numbers and political contributions, it is understandable, however unfortunate, that Cooper has little interest in their economic wellbeing.
There is yet another observation that should concern all taxpayers. The governor continues to use taxpayer funds to entice large national and multi-national businesses to locate in the state while simultaneously ignoring the economic backbone of the state - small businesses.
Cooper’s unilateral mandates have had the greatest impact on the state’s small independent businesses, forcing many to close due to the lack of business or because the governor has mandated their closures. The result is that now, tens of thousands of unemployed workers and business owners are facing economic disaster and the need to declare personal bankruptcy.
The lack of economic leadership on the part of Governor Cooper should be a major campaign issue and voters should take note, demanding answers as he seeks a second term as the state’s highest elected official. More than politics is at stake in the current campaign. So are the livelihoods of North Carolina’s 10 million residents and the state’s economic stability.