NC Justice Center’s preliminary legislative agenda urges leaders to respond to pandemic with compassion, commitment to strengthening the well-being of all North Carolinians

RALEIGH (May 5, 2020) – We applaud the NC General Assembly and Governor Cooper for their work to put together and sign an initial legislative package that will support our state’s response to the public health and economic crisis brought on by COVID-19. With these investments and policy directions in hand, North Carolina will be better positioned to protect the well-being of all of our residents and ensure our public systems can sustain communities’ ability to thrive in the years to come.

There were many good things accomplished in this legislation, including critical investments in testing and treatment, research into vaccines, and investments in stabilizing educational opportunities and supports to local governments. However, there were also missed opportunities, and policymakers must continue their work to ensure our state adequately supports those most in need. This means making improvements to the state’s Unemployment Insurance system; increasing supports for housing needs; ensuring workplaces are safe for workers; providing paid leave for workers left out of the CARES Act; investing in courts and public safety; and ensuring North Carolinians can access affordable health care and necessary treatment.

The Governor’s signature on this first legislation provides an opportunity to reflect on what we need to build a stronger North Carolina post-pandemic. We believe that vision must pursue an equitable response that leads to resilience and supports our public institutions throughout the recovery. Our preliminary legislative agenda for 2020 sets out some of the ways we urge our state leaders to respond to the pandemic with compassion and commitment to strengthening the well-being of all North Carolinians.

Our state leaders should swiftly turn to work on the issues absent from this proposal and focus on responding to the needs of our communities, particularly for those most in harm’s way. As North Carolinians across the state struggle with health scares, job loss, school closures, and great uncertainty, our policymakers’ leadership can show they are working for everyone in our state — particularly those disproportionately affected by the pandemic, such as communities of color. This pandemic will continue to impact our lives and communities for years to come; today, our state leaders have an opportunity to establish the policies and support systems that will guide us now and in the future.