Around the state, restaurants and salons were able to open again late Friday with social distancing restrictions in place. While this is a step forward, State Treasurer Dale Folwell continues to be focused on reopening the economy.
“There’s an honest debate right now between life and livelihood,” Folwell said.
In crises like the pandemic, lower- and fixed-income people are more affected. Folwell said he wants to make sure people in that demographic are able to recover from the economic impact of the stay-at-home order Gov. Roy Cooper put in place in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
For months, North Carolina residents have stayed indoors, limiting grocery trips and errands to slow the spread of the virus.
“If people can’t move, they can’t consume,” Folwell said.
During normal travel, people are commuting to work, driving and buying gas, shopping for food, clothes or leisure, and vacationing. Folwell said the lack of travel is affecting the economy as well as the lack of income as employees lose jobs.
The decrease in sales leads to a decrease in government revenue at a state and municipal level. With Iredell County and municipal governments in the throes of budgeting for fiscal year 2020-2021, the expected drop in sales tax has affected expenditure plans for the next year.
Some local governments will struggle without the expected revenue from sales tax. Folwell said Iredell County and Statesville have saved enough to remain in good standing despite the crisis. During meetings, both Iredell and Statesville officials and staff have discussed strategies for limiting spending in the next fiscal year to prepare for the decrease in revenue.
“People do not care what political party you’re a member of,” Folwell said. “They just want their problems fixed.”
Folwell said he is focused on helping North Carolina residents make sure they put food on the table and go back to work.
Having been hospitalized in March after contracting the coronavirus, Folwell said he knows how serious the disease can be. However, the state needs to focus on the sick and healthy, he said. Different demographics and different areas of the state have different needs.
“We’re all working together, but we’re in different boats,” Folwell said.
He said restricting business operations too much will start putting North Carolina at a disadvantage compared to the surrounding states. Some surrounding states, like Georgia, started allowing some businesses to reopen before North Carolina.
However, Folwell said the state is in a strong financial position. If the governor’s office allows the state to reopen, North Carolina has potential to recover quickly.
“We’ve got to get the economy open again,” Folwell said.