Last week Danny Richani sold a treasured heirloom to get money to keep his family afloat. Nearly three months ago, Richani’s health club was among the first businesses in North Carolina forced to shutter amid the COVID pandemic. The gym owner has yet to receive any unemployment assistance promised by the state government.
“I would be on hold for hours just to get disconnected every time I tried to file my claim with DES. One time I was on hold for 4 hours, but no one answered — now I’ve basically given up on our government,” Richani told me.
With no help in sight, the bills keep mounting. “Now my husband and I are dealing with anxiety and depression.”
North Carolina ranks dead last in the nation for providing pandemic relief according to a new study conducted by finance website WalletHub. Last week, N.C. Division of Employment Security reported that there have been 922,821 filings for benefits since the shutdown began, yet only 61% of applicants have received checks.
Who’s to blame? Let’s ask the governor:
“I am pushing employment security to move faster,” said Gov. Roy Cooper during a press briefing this week. The governor said he knows that families are struggling and, just like them, is frustrated with the state unemployment office for not doing enough.
Got it? North Carolinians have been forced into poverty because “everybody over there” at the DES works slowly. Cooper’s blame shifting and lack of transparency has even the usually supportive Charlotte Observer editorial board denouncing his mismanagement.
But you can’t blame the governor — he has been busy. Cooper went on secret getaway to Florida to fundraise on the same day his state saw its first COVID outbreak instead of beefing up the DES with staff or updating the failing computer systems. Weeks later, Cooper launched another fundraising drive on the same day that 620,000 people filed for unemployment while state legislators pleaded with him to issue a plan to reopen the state.
Last Wednesday, two days before gyms were set to open in North Carolina, Robin Smith learned that the eight gyms she owns with her husband would need to remain shut down for at least another six weeks. “We found out from Gov. Cooper’s televised news conference. His office didn’t even tell us before he announced it.”
With the governor’s snap of his finger, the money Smith had poured into her reopening went down the tubes.
Why are the goalposts to reopen the state’s economy continuously being moved? Again, let’s ask the governor:
“People having that confidence is going to be so important. Even if the state dropped every restriction in place, you still have a lot of people that are going to be concerned for their safety,” Cooper said in a recent interview with ABC11.
So, the people of North Carolina are to blame for the governor’s endless shutdown. You see, it’s because they lack “the confidence to go out,” presumably because they don’t believe businesses will operate responsibly to protect them. Gov. Cooper, the same guy in charge of dispersing unemployment, thinks he can make that decision for them.
Gov. Cooper pretends to care how people feel, yet he is unfazed by people like Danny Richani and Robin Smith who are waiting for the “confidence” that they can keep their businesses open and provide for their families.
Cooper is unfazed that North Carolina has seen the second-highest job loss of any state.
He’s unfazed that after 11 weeks, 350,000 people are still waiting for their first unemployment check.
But he ignores that 63% of COVID deaths in the state have come from nursing homes, not from Targets or Walmarts that have been teeming with people for months.
And he ignores the economic bounce back that neighboring states who opened weeks ago are experiencing.
Here’s the truth: maintaining the shutdown is not about the health of North Carolina, nor is it about boosting the confidence of its 10 million residents. It’s about shutting down the GOP.
For Republicans, having its convention in Charlotte this August is strategic, meant to ignite Trump’s base in a key Southern swing state. Importantly, it will give a boost to Cooper’s Republican challenger, Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, in the fall governor’s race.
Hundreds of thousands of people out of work in the Tarheel State are being crushed while the governor plays chicken with the GOP. Cooper continues to imperil millions of others who feel increasingly uneasy about their own futures. The only one who has confidence in North Carolina is the man who caused it all.
Cooper’s playing politics is crushing hundreds of thousands of people in the Tarheel State, and this pain could have been prevented by him doing his job.
Sloan Rachmuth is the executive director of Pen & Shield Media. She’s a contributor at the Federalist and the Daily Wire. She is based in Raleigh, North Carolina.