Democratic Rep. Michael Wray, who serves Halifax and Northampton counties in the North Carolina House of Representatives, called for more COVID-19 relief in his recent "Raleigh Report" newsletter.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on our state, but over the past year, we have all come together to slow the spread of the virus and help out our neighbors in need. And now, the roll out of vaccines gives us all hope that we can turn the corner soon. Still, many of our fellow North Carolinians and people are suffering -- struggling to put food on the table, find a job, or keep their business open.
More help must be on the way. Our state has the resources to do it. The state’s revenue forecast revealed that North Carolina should collect $4.1 billion more than expected. Now is the time to put that money to work for the people of North Carolina. Our friends and neighbors need it and we can afford it. Frankly, we can’t afford not to.
In Raleigh, I have been working hard with my colleagues across the aisle to pass initial COVID relief for the people of our state. Now, we must do more. Governor Cooper has proposed an emergency relief package to invest in economic recovery and build back a stronger and more resilient North Carolina. Passing this additional relief is not optional -- it is essential.
We will have legislative debates about how to provide assistance, but we must remain clear on who we intend to help:
People Who Get Sick and Health Care Workers:
We must continue to provide adequate care for those who contract COVID, while also working to strengthen our overall health care system, like Vidant North. Our health care workers have been working night and day to provide care during these challenging times. We must continue to keep them safe while supporting them to persevere through the next few months.
Small Businesses and Their Employees:
Small businesses have been hit hard by the pandemic. It is critical to provide relief to these businesses, especially those who have been forced to close or scale down, to ensure they are able to keep their doors open. These businesses provide the jobs our friends and neighbors need, and they will help us rebuild our local economies.
People Unemployed and Looking for Work:
Hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians remain out of work through no fault of their own and are suffering under one of the stingiest unemployment programs in the country. With more than $2 billion in our Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, we can afford to increase the maximum length of compensation to 26 weeks, just like the vast majority of states across the country, and increase the maximum benefit amount from $350 to $500 a week.
Students and Educators:
Virtual learning has taken a toll on our students, educators, and parents. We must also ensure teachers and other school workers are vaccinated as quickly as supplies allow. As we look to the next school year, we must also work to rebuild and reconnect by addressing the social, emotional, and educational needs of students and teachers after a year of virtual instruction.
People With Hunger and Housing Needs:
Our communities have come together to help each other in amazing ways. An emergency budget should give additional funding to the food banks, like the Union Mission that are continuing to feed families in need. It should also provide housing assistance to those who are falling behind on rental payments."