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Reps. Warren, Howard, Sasser will get to work this week on coronavirus committees

By Liz Moomey
liz.moomey@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Rowan County’s legislators will get to work this week on ways state government can help amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease COVID-19.

N.C. Reps. Harry Warren, R-76, Julia Howard, R-77, and Wayne Sasser, R-67, have joined the N.C. House Select Committee on COVID-19. The bipartisan committee, which was established by House Speaker Tim Moore, is made up of Health Care Working Group, Economic Support Working Group, Continuity of State Operations Working Group and Education Working Group.

Howard is serving as the chair of the Economic Support Working Group and Warren is a member. Sasser, a pharmacist, is on the Health Care Working Group.

The committee and its specific groups will meet remotely to prepare for immediate and long-term legislative responses to the developing COVID-19 outbreak crisis.

The committee meetings will be held remotely, including by telephone. Members of both parties will chair the policy working groups that will minimize gatherings of staff and members in accordance with the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.

Warren said his committee will begin meeting today and Wednesday. He said one item to figure out is unemployment compensation for North Carolina residents that are self-employed. Another is if Small Business Administration loans can be used to sustain the business’ employees.

Moore says the state is in strong fiscal position, with a $3.9 billion in Unemployment Trust Fund balance, $1.1 billion in savings, a $74 million disaster relief fund, $184 million in Medicaid contingency reserves and a $2.2 billion balance of unappropriated cash-on-hand.

Warren said he is uncertain how long the assistance will last.

An Associated Press report said by Monday more than 113,000 claims unemployment claims had been filed, with most of the cases cited COVID-19.

“I have encouraged Gov. Cooper to take any lawful administrative action that he has available to support the economy at this time like delaying sales and unemployment tax remittance deadlines for businesses, extending state and local government permit expirations, and facilitating occupational licensure flexibility for working people in North Carolina dealing with this crisis,” Moore said.

Sasser said the groups in the House were created after considering specialties and expertise of its members. Sasser said his goal is to keep everyone “in the loop” as things change.

He said politics have been laid to rest. He is hopeful at the state level legislators will make progress fighting the outbreak. Sasser said he doesn’t want to look back and think the state should have been more strict to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

“The main thing we know is how dangerous this is,” Sasser said.

Warren said he thinks the response to the COVID-19 outbreak has been spot on.

“Across the board, I’m under the belief the United State is more organized and better prepared,” Warren said.

He added he has been impressed with Rowan County’s leadership for their coordinated response.

The state House Select Committee on COVID-19’s charge includes addressing “documented and anticipated economic impacts associated with the spread of COVID-19 virus on North Carolina’s economy, including workforce dislocation, health system resource management, declined consumer activity, and temporary industry contraction.”

Warren said the committee will introduce a bill or bills for the House to later vote on.

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