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We must all work together to protect each other during this pandemic and unite for changes that move toward a more resilient and just future for everyone in North Carolina.

by RFNC Staff

CORE MESSAGE: COVID-19 is a public health crisis that shows how interconnected we all are, and magnifies the inequalities in our economy, health care and government systems. Future generations will hold us accountable for how we respond to this moment. As individuals, we have a responsibility to stay safe and help protect community health. Our leaders have a responsibility to get us through this pandemic now and build a better tomorrow that leaves no one behind.

KEY POINT:  COVID-19 is a public health crisis that has deeply affected the lives of all North Carolinians. We must all work together to protect each other during the pandemic and unite for changes that move toward a more resilient and just future for everyone in our state.

TALKING POINTS

PUBLIC HEALTH RESPONSE

  • Our first priority has to be saving lives and solving the public health crisis. The proactive actions and stay-at-home orders by leaders like Governor Cooper are making a difference. And we have to continue to follow the guidance of medical professionals.
  • Our own health depends on the health of the person next to us and the person next to them. As individuals, we can wash our hands, wear masks, avoid unnecessary travel, and care for our friends and neighbors. Ensuring others can access care is how we take care of ourselves.
  • Cooper is a leader we can trust. He has a plan to safely reopen the economy once we hit clear indicators of progress against the virus.
  • We need more support from the federal government for personal protective equipment (PPE) and for significant increases in testing to understand the scope of COVID-19 in North Carolina - these are minimum requirements to ease social distancing restrictions.
  • In order to understand how the virus impacts communities differently and come up with solutions that work for everyone, collection and release of coronavirus data should include the racial demographics of people who are tested for, infected with, hospitalized for, or die from COVID-19.

THE IMPACT OF THE CRISIS

  • Many people in North Carolina are hurting right now. More than 900,000 have filed for unemployment and thousands of small businesses are struggling to stay afloat. Most of us know someone whose health or livelihood is impacted.
  • Many workers don’t have the option to stay at home. These workers, as well as people without safe places to stay, people with chronic health conditions, people who are incarcerated or our immigrant neighbors in detention should all have access to the care they need. That is what’s best for everyone’s health.
  • Treatment for coronavirus is estimated to cost up to $20,000, that’s a cost that would break any family except for our wealthiest. We need to expand access to free treatment of coronavirus in order to get the pandemic under control.
  • Everyone wants life to return to normal as soon as it is safe to do so, so it is important that we work together to create a new normal, instead of just business or politics as usual. 

ECONOMIC RESPONSE

  • Our legislature should support Gov. Cooper’s actions and pass legislation to fill the gaps left by the presidential administration’s inadequate response.
  • We have a responsibility to help the people who have been hurt most by this crisis. This means more than simply “reopening” the economy; we must make sure people have paid leave to recover or care for loved ones, extend eviction and foreclosure moratoriums, and ensure that people have access to unemployment benefits and insurance to pay for testing and treatment
  • If we expect that families, workers, and small businesses should be saving for a rainy day, we should expect the same of Fortune 500 companies.
  • As the crisis disrupts our daily lives, including our ability to work, pay rent, and send our kids to school we need to ensure working people can make ends meet, not hand tax breaks to the richest 1 percent and finance bailouts for corporations.
  • Workers are suffering now because the president delayed stimulus checks so his signature would be on them. Now is not the time for this type of petty politics.
  • We should be bailing out small businesses before corporations. We should prioritize relief for average families before tax cuts for millionaires.
  • We can do better than the federal government response. While the most people received a $1,200 check, millionaires got million-dollar tax breaks from the federal government.

ENDING STAY-AT-HOME AND SOCIAL DISTANCING RESPONSIBLY

  • We don’t have to choose between our safety and public health and our economy. We can care for both. People need to recover before our economy can.
  • We are seeing a correlation between stay-at-home orders and other measures taken by leaders like Gov. Cooper and lower infection rates. To stop these measures now would be a mistake that costs hundreds, if not thousands, of lives.
  • If we reopen too soon, we risk undoing the hard work we’ve done, and we’ll be unprepared to handle coronavirus when it returns.
  • If we reopen too soon, we will be leaving residents to care for one another without necessary services in place, and leaving workers without an adequate safety net. We need to proceed carefully, prioritizing the protection of vulnerable people every step of the way.
  • Restrictions should be pulled back gradually so we can reopen our schools and businesses without the risk of having to close down again. As we proceed, we need to make sure we’re centering how to protect vulnerable people every step of the way.
  • Workers are suffering now because Congress and the president haven’t done enough. Workers need their stimulus checks and deserve relief that covers more of their bills.
  • Small businesses are suffering because three-fourths of the initial “small business” rescue fund went to publicly traded companies. We have to demand that relief focuses on small businesses and workers, not big corporations and the wealthy.

IMPACT ON WORSHIP

  • It’s difficult for people across all religious communities to be unable to gather in public right now. Many people feel they are lacking community and cultural support they are used to having.
  • People of all religious backgrounds are finding new ways to congregate and worship within the protective guidelines that are keeping us safe.
  • People are conducting worship and ceremonies online, offering daily prayers and meditations via Facebook, performing ceremonies via Zoom, or providing drive-up services.
  • By finding alternative ways to stay connected until we can reopen carefully, we provide North Carolina a better chance for opening all gathering spaces with less risk of closing down again.

POLICY IDEAS TO REBUILD THE POST-COVID ECONOMY:

  • Expand access to Medicaid to make sure more people are covered for the cost of coronavirus testing and treatment.
  • Fully fund DHHS and local health departments to speed up the treatment and recovery of people infected by the coronavirus.
  • Increase unemployment insurance benefits for workers who have lost their jobs from the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus.
  • Reduce taxes on small businesses and offer grants to help them stay open and retain employees through this crisis.
  • Extend the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures so that everyone can have secure housing during this crisis.
  • Require all North Carolina employers to provide paid sick days for workers to address the health and safety needs of them and their families.
  • Create a paid family and medical leave insurance program, funded through employer contributions, that would provide workers with relief while taking time away from work to deal with a serious illness or care for a family member.

CONCLUSION

  • It is state legislators’ job to be responsive, to help constituents keep themselves and their loved ones safe, and to help with relief and recovery. But we have to work together to get there.