Thom Tillis: Town halls provide invaluable feedback
By Thom Tillis
The COVID-19 pandemic has presented incredible challenges for North Carolinians, including public health risks from the virus and the stress of the sudden economic downturn caused by the temporary closure of our economy to help save lives.
In addition to working across the aisle to protect the physical and economic health of our state, communicating with North Carolinians and helping them stay informed has been one of my top priorities over the last three months. I’ve hosted 50 telephone townhalls with nearly 500,000 North Carolinians from all 100 counties to address concerns, and I’ve answered more than 600 questions.
Listening and talking directly with North Carolinians has provided me with invaluable feedback, and I’m convinced more than ever that the vast majority of North Carolinians are doing their part to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The vast majority are also want to do their part to help safely re-open our economy, get back to work, and take a step towards some semblance of normal.
As we continue to see an uptick in new cases of COVID-19, I’ve been encouraged by the commitment North Carolinians to protect the health of themselves, their family, and their neighbors. I’ve heard from North Carolinians who have created homemade masks to give out to loved ones and others who have been taking extra precautions to protect the health of relatives who are in the high-risk category.
It’s been heartbreaking to hear the stories of financial hardship many North Carolinians are facing. I’ve heard from hardworking North Carolinians who lost their jobs to no fault of their own and have had to file for unemployment. I’ve heard from hardworking small businesses owners, including restaurant and bar owners who have been particularly devastated by the economic closure.
Fortunately, there have been glimmers of hope in recent weeks. In April, I proudly supported the passage of the CARES Act, and we are beginning to see the positive impact it has had. The bipartisan legislation provided direct payments to North Carolina families and temporarily increased the social safety net to help those who were laid off or furloughed. It also created the Paycheck Protection Program, which 112,855 businesses in North Carolina have used to keep their employees on payroll and keep their business afloat during this very difficult time.
As our economy begins to re-open, we are seeing positive signs. In the month of May, 2.5 million jobs were created and retail sales surged, greatly exceeding expectations. It shows the grit and resiliency of the American people.
While we still have a long way to go to get back to the historically strong economy we were experiencing just a few short months ago, we have reason to be optimistic from what I’ve seen and heard from North Carolinians.
As vaccine development is underway, we should remember that COVID-19 is expected to be with us for the foreseeable future. We have to continue to do our part to help prevent the spread of the disease. As more of our economy begins to re-open, we should all still be diligent in wearing a mask in public and social distancing whenever possible.
I strongly encourage this not only for the health and safety of you and your family, but for the neighbors who lives in our communities. My daughter, who is expecting her second child, is a nurse who is still working on the frontlines, and I think of first responders and health professionals like her when I put a mask out when I go out in public.
As your senator, I’m also going to continue my work of listening to the concerns, opinions, and experiences of North Carolinians. The past 50 telephone town halls have helped me understand the different struggles North Carolinians have faced over the last three months, and I know tough times will continue for many in the months ahead.
I’m proud Congress could come together to pass the CARES Act quickly to provide direct payments to hardworking North Carolinians and give additional assistance to those laid-off to help combat this pandemic. As the stimulus from the CARES Act continues to reach the hands of families, small businesses, and local communities, I’ll continue working on more solutions to help our economy get back on track and doing whatever it takes to make sure North Carolina comes back stronger than ever.
Thom Tillis represents North Carolina in the U.S. Senate.
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