DON'T SHAME THE UNEMPLOYED, BENEFITS MUST SUSTAIN FAMILIES: This week more than 825,000 North Carolinians will see their unemployment benefits evaporate from an average $877 to just $277. This week landlords will demand rent. Lenders want mortgage payments. Monthly utility bills must be paid. This week marks the end of state-ordered moratoriums on evictions and utility cutoffs for nonpayment. In days, how many of those 825,000 will be without roofs over their families’ heads? How many will face temperatures near 100 without utilities? In the U.S. Senate, where help should be on the way, North Carolina’s Sens. Richard Burr and Thom Tillis have not acted. Why don’t we hear their voices? Why aren’t they demanding action, a Senate bill, or even a vote on the plan the U.S. House delivered two months ago?
OPEN LETTER ON COVID 19 FROM UNC FACULTY TO UNDERGRADUATES: Your experience as a Chapel Hill undergraduate is a journey we are delighted to join and feel fortunate to be a part of. We want to be in the classroom teaching you. However, we cannot, in good conscience, perform that role on campus this semester. We need to stay safe from Covid-19 by staying at home – and we need you to stay home in order to protect yourselves and your fellow students, your teachers, the many workers who serve you on campus, the residents of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, and your own family members and loved ones. University leaders developed their Roadmap to reopening on the basis of a key assumption - namely, that a “first” viral wave in spring would be followed only by a (hopefully) smaller “second” wave in fall and winter. Subsequent events have shown that that was a faulty assumption. Now the country’s oldest public university must not repeat the tragic errors of this summer by reopening too quickly and completely. Under current conditions, it is not safe for you to come to campus--to live in dormitories and apartments, to sit in classrooms, and to socialize with your peers in the way that college students usually do. We have spent much of the summer working hard to ensure that our online classes are the best that they can be. We are confident that what we offer you, safely, online, will be better than what we can do under the compromised conditions of the face to face classroom during the pandemic.
TRUMP, PLEASE QUIT BEFORE YOU'RE FIRED: Trump publicly quit on his country two years ago, when he chose Vladimir Putin’s word over that of U.S. intelligence officials, the infamous sellout in Helsinki. So it was no surprise when the two leaders spoke by phone this week, that Trump did not even raise the question of Russians paying a bounty to have American soldiers killed in Afghanistan. That is dereliction of duty, son. He quit on the economy in early spring, when he pushed for a widespread reopening, even though health experts warned that the results could be catastrophic. And thus, this week we saw the largest drop in economic output on record, as people were afraid to resume normal commerce in a country fevered with viral hotspots. He quit on the Constitution, obstructing Congress and abusing power, in the scheme to tie aid to a struggling ally to a demand that Ukraine dig up dirt on a political opponent. From there, he’s become increasingly authoritarian. Clearing a park full of peaceful protesters by force in order to stage a photo op with a Bible was just the start. Delaying the Nov. 3 election is not only illegal, it would be unprecedented. Lincoln held the regular election during the Civil War, and Franklin Roosevelt faced voters on time during World War II.
OLDER POLL WORKERS ARE AFRAID TO WORK THIS FALL. YOUNGER AMERICANS SHOULD STEP UP: At this point, several key issues are largely the province of government officials, such as ensuring that ballots are sent to voters in a timely manner and implementing hygiene protocols at polling locations. But ordinary Americans can address a major issue: a shortage of poll workers. This fall, young, healthy people should step forward to relieve the country’s mostly older poll workers from exposure to the novel coronavirus. Already this year, officials in Wisconsin, Georgia, Kentucky and elsewhere struggled to recruit enough poll workers for primary elections. In Anchorage, 95 percent of usual poll workers declined to participate in a municipal election this year. Even before the pandemic, roughly two-thirds of all jurisdictions reported finding it “very or somewhat difficult” to recruit enough poll workers. The logistical challenges of implementing virus safeguards — new sanitation and distancing protocols, at the very least — mean that more poll workers are needed precisely as that traditional workforce has excellent reason to sit this year out. Many jurisdictions are planning to reduce the number of polling locations available in anticipation of staffing shortages. That could mean longer lines, effectively disenfranchising those who can’t afford to wait to vote. Earlier this year in Wisconsin, National Guard members were mobilized to work the polls in the face of a statewide shortage of 7,000 poll workers. Still, the state had to reduce the number of polling locations — Milwaukee alone reduced polling centers from 180 to five.
THE CULT OF SELFISHNESS IS KILLING AMERICA: On the face of it, the answer is that Trump and allies were so eager to see big jobs numbers that they ignored both infection risks and the way a resurgent pandemic would undermine the economy. As I and others have said, they failed the marshmallow test, sacrificing the future because they weren’t willing to show a little patience. And there’s surely a lot to that explanation. But it isn’t the whole story. For one thing, people truly focused on restarting the economy should have been big supporters of measures to limit infections without hurting business — above all, getting Americans to wear face masks. Instead, Trump ridiculed those in masks as “politically correct,” while Republican governors not only refused to mandate mask-wearing, but they prevented mayors from imposing local mask rules. I’ve long been struck by the intensity of right-wing anger against relatively trivial regulations, like bans on phosphates in detergent and efficiency standards for light bulbs. It’s the principle of the thing: Many on the right are enraged at any suggestion that their actions should take other people’s welfare into account. This rage is sometimes portrayed as love of freedom. But people who insist on the right to pollute are notably unbothered by, say, federal agents tear-gassing peaceful protesters. What they call “freedom” is actually absence of responsibility. Rational policy in a pandemic, however, is all about taking responsibility. The main reason you shouldn’t go to a bar and should wear a mask isn’t self-protection, although that’s part of it; the point is that congregating in noisy, crowded spaces or exhaling droplets into shared air puts others at risk. And that’s the kind of thing America’s right just hates, hates to hear.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
BONNER ODELL: FEDERAL UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS ARE CRITICAL FOR FAMILIES: I am a parent who was laid off due to COVID-related budget cuts. The weekly $600 CARES Act unemployment supplement has been helping keep our family afloat. Now, my children’s school is going to virtual-only learning in the fall. This makes it incredibly difficult to find a new job since I’ll be home with them overseeing their schooling. The U.S. Senate’s coronavirus relief plan slashes the unemployment supplement to $200 a week through September, then down to 70% of previous wages. This will be a real hardship on our family. Thankfully I am not a single parent, but many laid off parents are. Imagine what an impossible situation they face. This pandemic is in full swing; it is not the time to slash the social safety net and leave laid-off parents without the means to provide for their kids.
PATRICIA MALONEY: CHILD HUNGER IN NC HAS BEEN EXACERBATED BY PANDEMIC: The COVID-19 pandemic has yielded devastating consequences across North Carolina, especially for children. According to Save the Children, N.C. ranks 40 out of 50 states for child food insecurity rates, and more than 16% of Wake County kids are food insecure. Child hunger adversely impacts all aspects of a child’s development, from education to increased health risks. This has only worsened since COVID-19. I encourage Sen. Thom Tillis to quickly enact policy solutions that ensure kids don’t continue to go hungry. One way is to temporarily increase SNAP benefits by 15% in the upcoming conronavirus relief bill. This would ensure families have the resources they need to put food on the table while stimulating our economy by increasing spending at neighborhood businesses. Ensuring kids can eat during this uncertain time shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Every day that goes by without substantive action is another day a child goes to bed with an empty stomach.
BETSY LUDWIG: CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF THE AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT: I was disappointed that there was no mention July 26 of the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This groundbreaking legislation ensured the rights of people with disabilities to equal protection in housing, employment, transportation and community life. One in four North Carolinians has a disability. Much has changed since the law passed, but much remains to be done. Arts Access honored the anniversary by collecting stories from people living with disabilities. These stories are powerful expressions of both the barriers people face and how the law has impacted them.