Hood: Cooper Isn’t Addressing Urgent Needs

RALEIGH – John Hood, chairman of the John Locke Foundation, has been, like many others, taking stock of the COVID-19 impact on North Carolina. From the spread of the infection itself, to the paralyzing effects of the fear it creates, and the economic impact from lockdown policies. Governor Roy Cooper seems to be focused on only one of these, Hood has concluded, to the detriment of the other urgent needs the state faces.

In a weekend column, Hood wrote about the extraordinary economic disaster that the state is facing, and how it deserves a response marked by urgency — the same urgency felt by any suddenly jobless North Carolinian wondering how they’ll pay their bills. Cooper is not doing that.

“During the month of April alone, North Carolina lost 572,000 jobs, or 12.5% of the state’s total employment. That’s a higher rate of job loss than any of our neighbors experienced. Among the 12 Southeastern states, only Kentucky and West Virginia fared worse.

North Carolina is experiencing an economic disaster, one of the largest and fastest downturns in the history of our state. Our leaders should be responding to this crisis with great urgency. Gov. Roy Cooper is not.

The number of workers affected is mindboggling. There were about 820,000 fewer North Carolinians working in April than in February. Only 49.4% of those aged 16 or older were either employed or actively seeking a job. That’s the lowest employment-to-population ratio in modern North Carolina history — far lower than during the Great Recession.

Reeling from the collapse of North Carolina’s labor market, hundreds of thousands of desperate people have filed for unemployment compensation. Many have waited weeks to get even a response to their claims. Some still haven’t received a dime.

State government was manifestly unprepared for the demand for benefits and remains overwhelmed by the task. Our leaders should be responding to this crisis with great urgency. Gov. Roy Cooper is not.

Thousands of North Carolina businesses have been trying to get the state’s permission to reopen so they can rehire their workers, serve their customers and keep from going under permanently. The administration’s new “Phase 2” order, issued Wednesday, told many of those businesses to forget it, at least for another month.

Based on the original “Phase 2” guidance, some bars, fitness facilities and indoor sports establishments spent thousands of dollars buying equipment, restructuring their spaces and hiring back workers so they would be prepared to reopen under social distancing guidelines.

Now many worry their businesses can’t survive another month. And they are furious with what they see as incomprehensible and unfair dictates. Restaurants can reopen at 50% capacity but bars cannot? Summer camps can reopen, including for overnight stays, but gyms, martial arts facilities and dance studios cannot? What if the latter businesses host summer camps, as many do? 

Such arbitrary and capricious rules unreasonably infringe on the right of North Carolinians to earn a living. When the Cooper administration violated the First Amendment by regulating churches more onerously than shopping malls, it took a federal court order to put a stop to it. Now more litigation is likely. Our state leaders should be responding to this crisis of confidence with great urgency. Gov. Roy Cooper is not. […]”


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