March 23, 2020/Media

“It’s Very Scary.” North Carolinians Tell Tillis: Look Out for Workers, Small Businesses, and Hospitals, Not Corporate CEOs

Small business owner: “This is a Band-Aid… I’m hoping (legislators) do the right thing.”

As the Senate continues to negotiate a nearly $2 trillion economic aid package, people across the state are calling on Senator Tillis and Washington Republicans to prioritize working North Carolinians, relief for hospitals, personal protective equipment, and aid for small businesses. Instead, Senator Tillis and Washington Republicans put forward a bill yesterday that prioritized corporate interests and failed working families.

Here’s what North Carolinians – in their own words – are demanding of Senator Tillis:

Hospitals and medical workers are demanding relief for hospitals and more personal protective equipment (PPE):

  • Mecklenburg County Health Director Gibbie Harris: “Protective equipment is challenging … we are burning through some of it fairly quickly and looking at how we can make sure we have what we need, so our first responders and healthcare providers are protected.” (WCNC)
  • Charlotte-area Hospital Worker: “It’s very scary… We know we’re gonna do this to take care of people and put ourselves out there, but you want to feel like you’ve got the proper equipment.” (WCNC)
  • Triangle-area Hospitals: “UNC Health and WakeMed are seeking the public’s help in securing medical supplies to protect health care workers as they try to care for people infected by the novel coronavirus.” (News & Observer)
  • UNC Health: “There is a critical (and global) shortage of the swabs and other supplies needed. As we run low on swabs, it could hurt our ability to do tests,” said Alan Wolf, a spokesman for UNC Health. “UNC Health is joining other health organizations in urging federal regulators to ease regulations, a move that would accelerate and expand testing.” (Winston Salem Journal)
  • Patrick Baron, program director of the school of health sciences at Western Carolina University: “We are underwater with regard to being prepared for this. We’re starting from such a deficit.” (Asheville Citizen Times)
  • Pardee Hospital chief medical officer Dr. David Ellis: “Everybody’s being very conscious of PPE and the supplies that we need to take care of these patients,” Pardee chief medical officer Dr. David Ellis said. Ellis said, right now, at Pardee, there’s a slight shortage on N95 masks. (WLOS)
  • Asheville physician Carly Brown: “We have a limited amount of personal protective equipment, otherwise known as PPE. And the reason why is because about two weeks ago, when it started becoming really clear to us this was going to happen, the doctors I think were saying, is when we started trying to order and at that time we already could not get much more than what we already had.” (Buzzfeed)


Small businesses owners are calling on immediate relief rather than corporate bailouts:

  • Coleen Speaks, owner of Hummingbird restaurant in Raleigh: “This is a Band-Aid. The people of this world need to support the industry; its needs are unprecedented. I’m hoping (legislators) do the right thing.” (News & Observer)
  • Katie Button, owner of Cúrate in Asheville: “The restaurant industry and small businesses across the country desperately need government support, aid and leadership. Please reach out to your senators, governors and community members and let them know that we need them.” (Asheville Citizen Times)
  • UNC’s Kenan-Flager School of Business professor Christian Lundblad: “It’s not simply about just the airline industry or making sure that we jam liquidity through the banking system. It has to be something that’s really targeted to the small business sector where we can find ways to extend credit or capital or something to help those guys manage working capital needs, which in large part are for payrolls.” (News & Observer)
  • N.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association President and CEO Lynn Minges: “We’re working through unemployment insurance, family medical leave, paid sick leave for those workers and hope that we will see a bill passed out of the Senate early this week.” (WLOS)


Working families are calling on Senator Tillis to put them before unaccountable giveaways to corporations who are then free to fire employees whenever:

  • Michael Walden, an N.C. State University economist: “My view is we need aggressive action on all fronts,” he said, naming ideas like cash payouts to families, Federal Reserve aid for Wall Street, bailouts for small businesses and more. (News & Observer)
  • Sarah Flaherty, director of Cape Fear Community College’s Bonnie Sanders Burney Child Development Center: “We kind of feel like we’re the last line of defense. We need to be watching these children so the parents can keep our community going.” (Port City Daily)
  • Jeanette McClure, former server at HMSHost: “It’s like every door you knock on is closed, or it might be open a little bit but you can’t get in the door.” (WBTV)
  • David Dockery, a bartender at Charlotte International Airport’s Carolina Beer Company: “I’m scared because it’s very likely that I’m going to lose my health coverage,” he said. “I’m scared because once this month is over… all those bills are still coming. I have no option to pay them. I have no income.” The union has asked that any relief for airlines or concession companies include guarantees for workers. (WBTV)
  • David Dockery: “This is a multi-billion dollar corporation. They could take care of us if they wanted to. But they don’t.” (WBTV)
  • Rita Blalock, McDonald’s worker in Raleigh: “It’s always been a struggle,” the 53-year-old said. “But it’s worse now. I don’t make but $8.50, and where I stay I can barely make the rent.” (News & Observer)
  • Tammie Sperry, Clayton-area mother: “No one is going to have finances to do things,” she said. “It is going to be really tough to pick back up depending on how long this goes on. If it gets worse before it gets better, and it seems to be the case here, it is going to be hard … We are not financially secure to begin with,” Sperry said. “It makes me …. I’m laughing, but I’m not really laughing.” (News & Observer)