Progressive Pulse: NC General Assembly can afford to go all-in to address COVID-19 harm

Last Wednesday, the North Carolina General Assembly officially began its two-year session, with COVID-19 relief spending, a two-year state budget, school spending and redistricting among the top agenda items this year. 

Prior to the NCGA’s adjournment, the Republican-led legislature failed to address long standing unmet needs for struggling North Carolinians. According to the state’s latest Cash Watch data, North Carolina has $4.4 billion in unreserved funds that are available to meet current needs around the state.

From The Progressive Pulse:

State lawmakers should appropriate these dollars immediately to meet the rising hardships facing families, the challenges in containment of the coronavirus and roll-out of the vaccine, and the financial pressures on local governments and public institutions that need to expand services to protect the common good.

North Carolina can afford to put people first and respond robustly to COVID-19 while putting communities on sounder footing for the future.  These dollars show that North Carolina need not solely rely on the restrictive and time-limited aid, like what the federal government delivered at the end of December.

Unreserved funds are partially a reflection of the General Assembly’s failure to pass a comprehensive budget for the past two years and a longer-term refusal to meet the demands of families and communities struggling to make ends meet. Investing these funds in our public institutions today could set a different trajectory for our state — one that improves health care access, keeps people in their homes, expands educational opportunities, and fuels our economy.

Despite more than 1.3 North Carolinians filing more than 2.45 million state and federal jobless claims, the NCGA has yet to increase unemployment benefits, expand health care coverage or use the more than 1.2 billion in “rainy-day fund” to alleviate families struggling.

North Carolina remains plagued by its broken unemployment insurance system — created by the GOP’s 2013 restructure of the system which stripped North Carolina of its capabilities to deliver adequate aid to jobless individuals and to stabilize the state’s economy.

With a new session, North Carolina’s legislative leaders have an opportunity to lead and give relief to those who have been disproportionately impacted during the pandemic. Their decisions throughout this year will reflect whether they are committed to a long-term recovery for all North Carolinians, not just the wealthy few. 

Bottom Line: Now is the time for Republican leaders to stand up and fix their wrongdoings. Now is the time for our leaders to ensure that our state has a just recovery that puts us all on solid footing.

Alanna Joyner