State legislators have gathered remotely this week as they consider ways to help North Carolinians affected by the coronavirus crisis. The first tele-meeting was held Wednesday, as lawmakers convened for the first time – from a distance – in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
"For the first time in the history of the state of North Carolina, the Legislative Branch of government is meeting, instead of in this building, remotely from around the state. And I think it's a sobering thought for a lot of us for where we are right now," said House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) who spoke to lawmakers who adhered to social distancing recommendations. Moore struck a somber but optimistic tone to start the meeting.
"As we know, folks are coming out in droves to apply for unemployment," Moore said. "The good news that we can share is that because we have budgeted wisely we are in a good financial position."
The state has approximately $7.2 billion in available cash. That money comes from the state unemployment trust ($3.9 billion), rainy day fund ($1.1 billion), and unappropriated money ($2.2 billion) due to the lack of a new state budget.
In the weeks and months ahead, lawmakers will consider how to help people who have lost their jobs, small business owners, and other state agencies in need. The House is likely to consider whether to increase or extend unemployment benefits, and what tax changes, or extensions, can be made to help small businesses.
The legislature is also navigating how to conduct its business while protecting at-risk lawmakers – more than half the members of the House are older than 60 years old and 30 are at least 70 years.