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Tillis fields COVID-19 questions in telephone town hall

By Liz Moomey

liz.moomey@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — On Wednesday morning, U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis hosted his 16th telephone town hall answering questions from North Carolinians about the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Callers asked questions about when the economy will be reopened, about the safety of grocery store workers and information about tax rebate checks.

Tillis, a Republican, urged listeners to do their part to flatten the curve by wearing a face mask, staying at home if possible and maintaining social distancing.

“The minute that we hit the peak of the curve, it’s the step down the hill to get us down to the wonderful economy that we had back in February and the wonderful lifestyle that we enjoyed here in North Carolina,” Tillis said.

Tillis said government leaders are trying to strike the balance between physical health and economic health. The senator said he wants businesses to open back as soon as possible but doesn’t want to cause a second peak. 

“We will, for a period of time, need to be assured that these businesses can be open with the appropriate social distancing and safety measures,” Tillis said.

One caller asked about a second stimulus package. The first, the CARES Act, passed in late March and  provides $2.2 trillion to combat COVID-19 and provide economic help to businesses and employees.

Tillis said he wanted to see the impact of the first stimulus package, which was the “largest economic stabilization package ever passed in the history of this country,” before finalizing something further.

“Right now, only about $70 billion of that is beginning to be mobilized. So the first thing we want to do is make absolute certain that the intent of this economic stabilization package is realized and we’re getting the individual assistance to people and we’re helping bridge the gaps with businesses,” he said.

Tillis addressed a service industry professional in Charlotte that was laid off due to COVID-19 and was trying to apply for unemployment insurance for the first time. He said the North Carolina Division of Economic Security is overwhelmed by the “sheer volume” of applicants, especially since the population of those qualified for unemployment now includes independent contractors.

“I know that it’s frustrating,” Tillis said. “You will qualify for it.”

Tillis said the federal government’s checks, which will give individuals who make under $75,000 a year a one-time check of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child, will begin going out next week.

For most, Tillis said, they will not need to do anything to receive an assistance check, including those who receive social security benefits. The check will be deposited into the bank account used in tax returns or social security or will be mailed out.

A caller also inquired about the status of the Republican National Convention, which is scheduled for Aug. 24-27 in Charlotte.

Tillis said Republican National Committee members, Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles and Gov. Roy Cooper are monitoring when they would have to make a decision to possibly postpone or cancel.

“This is when the citizens can help us with that, if we can flatten the curve and we get to the point where we have a managed rate going into June, it very well may be the convention gets pushed back and not canceled,” Tillis said.

Tillis said the convention will have an economic impact of $200 million.

He urged North Carolinians to wear a face mask, and that when he goes out later, he’ll be wearing one.

“You’re protecting yourself and essentially saving a life,” he said. 

Tillis will hold the 17th town hall at 10 a.m. Thursday. To listen in, visit access.live/Tillis.

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