Last week the General Assembly passed a historic, bipartisan, first-step relief package to help North Carolina recover from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. However, a headline in the News & Observer pointed out that the package did not expand Medicaid or jobless benefits. Lawmakers said they wanted to avoid these controversial issues in order to pass this legislation quickly, but the exclusion of those potentially lifesaving expansions is part of a dangerous trend Republicans have established since taking control of the legislature in 2011.
- In 2019 Republicans in the state legislature blocked Medicaid expansion which leaves uninsured people with few options to pay for needed treatment if they get sick, especially since the cost of coronavirus treatment is estimated at up to $20,000.
- Moreover, the failure to expand Medicaid forced rural hospitals to close and puts more at risk of closing leaving rural communities more vulnerable to coronavirus spread and forcing them to travel far to get treatment.
- Republicans in the House and Senate voted for a budget that cut the NC Department of Health and Human Services by $42 million. The cuts would have severely undermined the ability to treat coronavirus patients.
- In 2013 the Republican state legislature made major cuts to unemployment insurance, making North Carolina one of only two states that only allows 12 weeks of unemployment, which is not enough to help people who have lost jobs and face months of unemployment due to the coronavirus outbreak.
- North Carolina also has one of the lowest unemployment payouts in the nation at just $277 per week on average. Many North Carolinians cannot benefit from unemployment changes at the federal level because of Republicans set a $350 cap on benefits.