Editorial: Burr and Tillis need to help N.C. more than appease Trump

Posted July 21, 2020 5:00 a.m. EDT

Evictions expected to rise, tenants need to know their rights

CBC Editorial: Tuesday, July 21, 2020; Editorial #8565
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company.

North Carolinians may want to issue a “silver alert” to find U.S. senators Richard Burr and Thom Tillis.

They’ve been off the radar when it comes to addressing the coronavirus pandemic. There’s some important business they need to attend to.

In just days, key unemployment benefits for more than 800,000 North Carolinians will end. It is a benefit that has added $600-a week to weekly unemployment benefits paid in the “worst state to be unemployed.” It has, through last week, injected $4.2 billion into the North Carolina economy – putting food on out-of-work family tables; paying rent and utility bills; childcare costs and medical care costs. It is money that gets spent in retail stores that keeps other workers on the job – and pumps sales taxes into the state and local government treasuries.

It represents more than two-thirds of the total unemployment benefits paid in North Carolina since March 15. If noting is done, benefits for hundreds of thousands of unemployed in North Carolina will drop from a weekly average of $877 to $277.

Tillis has offered milk-toast platitudes about getting people back to work as soon as possible. Burr has not made any public comments. They must be waiting on directions from the White House to let them know what’s best to do. The concern for North Carolinians is just who are Burr and Tillis looking to please and serve?

In recent weeks the two seem to make it a bigger priority to back up President Donald Trump than attending to the needs of North Carolinians. No one should believe, for a minute, that there is ANY connection between the selfish self-interest priorities of Trump and the most urgent needs, concerns or benefits of North Carolina’s citizens.

Continuing the additional $600-a-week payments isn’t a bonus. It is no luxurious free ride. Refusing to return to work “solely on the basis that you will earn less than you can collect in unemployment benefits is not considered good cause. … If you refuse to return to work solely on this basis you will not be eligible to receive benefits,” says the posted state policy.

The moratorium on evictions for lack of payment has expired and moratorium on cutoff of utilities for failure to pay bills goes off at the end of the month. The need for this assistance is EVEN GREATER now. These funds will keep families in their homes. They will keep the lights on.

If there are kids going back to school, it will help assure there’s a home to return to. For those who may be doing remote learning, it may be the difference between connecting to virtual classrooms or having to wander to find connectivity.

The House of Representatives, NEARLY TWO MONTHS AGO, passed a relief package that addresses many of the concerns that now demand urgent action. It appropriately continues the $600-a-week unemployment insurance benefit through January and provides $175 billion in assistance for rent, mortgages and utilities. It also provides money for states to do more testing and tracing of COVID-19 spread; $100 billion so schools can safely reopen and helps struggling states with assistance to keep essential workers on the job.

The Trump administration and the Senate, other than complain about the House’s plan, have done nothing. Their negligence and failure to act has resulted in an emergency.

It is time to stop playing politics with the lives of North Carolinians. The conceptual White House relief package is larded with contingencies such as: requiring schools open in return for aid; rejecting funding states to increase testing and tracing; and cutting a payroll tax that provides NO relief to those who need it most NOW.

Richard Burr and Thom Tillis: Offer up a clear voice in support of what North Carolina needs to survive. Just as clearly, reject what Donald Trump’s self-interests demand.

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