February 18, 2021/Media, Press

House Democratic Leader Robert Reives Joined By North Carolinians To Highlight Need For Additional COVID Relief In Virtual Press Conference

As the state continues to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, House Democratic Leader Robert Reives was joined by North Carolinians from across the state to share real stories about how relief funding would benefit small businesses, educators, and communities in North Carolina. 

“People in North Carolina have come together during these challenging times and are ready to turn the corner on this pandemic,” said House Democoratic Leader Robert Reives. “But we know we must continue to invest in our communities to ensure a full economic recovery and help our neighbors through this crisis. Our higher than expected revenue numbers show we can afford to do it. It is our responsibility to take action now.” 

Leader Reives was joined by Amy Rubin and Chris Donochad, owners of Big Pillow Brewing in Hot Springs, North Carolina.

“Starting a business in the middle of a global pandemic is an extremely scary thing to do. We are so grateful for Governor Cooper’s commitment to small business owners. The funds from his emergency budget will ensure small businesses like ours can pay bills and salaries, and remain open during these challenging times,” Rubin and Donochad said.

Hearts Beat As One’s Erin Barbee also joined the call. The community foundation, based in Charlotte, began a food pantry in March 2020, and served over 150 families a week — from children who needed meals that would’ve received from schools and the homeless population in the city. With additional COVID relief, Barbee says they could do even more to help the over 80,000 families in Charlotte experiencing food insecurity. 

“Through this possibility of funding through Governor Cooper, we are hoping that we can utilize these funds to expand our services. We want to be able to reach at least 200 to 250 families which would help us to have over 10,000 families fed, and that is just a little bit in the big grand scheme of 80,000. If we can take care of 10,000  of those — we are doing our part,” Barbee said.

Dr. Courtnea Rainey, an instructor at Durham Technical Community College, would be eligible for a bonus in Governor Cooper’s proposed emergency budget. She discussed the ways in which instructors have been using their own personal finance to recreate the technical access and office supplies they have on campus: 

“When students left campus, they did not have access to the resources that we have on campus, but the same is true for instructors. This proposed bonus would mean a lot in stabilizing the household finances of the community college employees. Passing this budget is also a way to send that message to the community who are making sacrifices to try to keep our communities and our society going. It’s a good way to say ‘we see the community college teachers who are trying to make their students’ dreams a reality, even in these really challenging times. I hope that when the legislature is voting, they are seeing this as a way to affirm the community you’re in,” Rainey said.

North Carolina’s revenue forecast found that the state should expect to receive $4.1 billion more than expected — money that can be used right now to address economic recovery, public health, and schools. Governor Cooper announced an emergency budget proposal earlier this month that would provide relief funding for the immediate needs of a variety of people and programs, including frontline workers, educators, small businesses, food banks, families struggling to pay rent, those out of work, and households and businesses without access to high-speed broadband. 

Organizations and people from across the state are highlighting the need for additional COVID relief. Read stories below from educators, small business owners, food banks, and more. 

Peter Gilbert, Program Director, Eviction Diversion Program, Legal Aid of North Carolina — Durham: “The eviction crisis in North Carolina is nothing new, but COVID has exacerbated it to unprecedented proportions. Pandemic-fueled job losses have led directly to unpaid rent and eviction, which in turn has fueled the pandemic by forcing people into living situations—doubling up with family, staying in homeless shelters—where social distancing is impossible. More funding is desperately needed to prevent evictions, keep families in their homes and slow the spread of the disease—a beneficial result for all North Carolinians.”

Wib Gulley, Durham Coalition for Affordable Housing and Transit: “North Carolina renters and landlords are facing a critical financial need for rental assistance in light of the job loss impacts of the COVID pandemic, and the Governor’s proposed funding is a strong step in the right direction to meet this need.” 

Hannah Randall, MANNA FoodBank: “At MANNA, we are still in the midst of responding to an unprecedented need for food as families struggle to make ends meet. Our latest data shows that 75 percent more people are coming to food distributions searching for food than we were before the pandemic. Any and all help is much appreciated and will be stewarded as always to best meet the short and long term needs of our region and the people who call our mountains home.” 

John D. Gossett, Asheville Buncombe Technical Community College: “The employees of Asheville Buncombe Technical Community College are certainly appreciative of the Governor’s proposal for a $2,000 bonus for community college employees.  In the last biennium of the state budget while all other state employees enjoyed a 2.5% increase with another 2.5% promised for 2020-21, Community College employees received nothing. Therefore, $2,000 will be a nice start. Community College employees are vital to the growth of our state, particularly as we move out of the COVID era and work to rebuild our economy. We are preparing North Carolinians for work as EMTs, RNs, Lab Techs, Law Enforcement, small business employees and owners, Machinist, Welders – the list is endless. The time is now, especially as we fight to bring our economy and state out of the pandemic, to entrust us with a budget that will allow us to do what we do well: prepare the North Carolina workforce for the future.”

Himanshu Karvir, Virtelle Hospitality: “The pandemic has impacted almost every industry across the state, and the hospitality industry is among the hardest hit. Governor Cooper’s emergency budget would provide relief for not only small business owners, including marketing for tourism and hospitality, but also for our workforce who need help now. This will ensure that North Carolina’s beautiful attractions are open for business and our local economies can turn the corner on this pandemic.”