The economy of the High Country is both diverse and unique. From small business and education, to agriculture and tourism, we have been able to thrive, often times without the help from Raleigh that we see our more urban and suburban communities receive.

We know though that the High Country has untapped potential, and now in the era of COVID-19, we know that everyone in our community is hurting from the impact of the virus. On the issues that have always mattered, I have worked hard to represent the 93rd district. In May of 2020 I was primary sponsor of HB 1122 and HB 1105, both of which sought to expand rural broadband which will help our students learn, and our businesses operate. In June of 2020 I voted for the North Carolina Farm Act, to support farmers in our district. After COVID-19 hit out area hard economically, I was a sponsor on HB 1034 a bill, that if passed, would provide emergency loans to small businesses.

But the most difficult economic issue our district has faced since COVID-19 came has been unemployment. Over the past months my office has fielded hundreds of requests to help constituents apply for unemployment. Our state has witnessed the largest growth in unemployment in our entire history. We have worked as hard as possible to get working families the support they need in these difficult times. While I am proud of the support we were able to offer, the fact remains that the unemployment benefits our state offers are not sufficient.

In 2019, the maximum unemployment benefits to be granted was only $350 a month, with an average benefit of only $277 a month. Before Republicans took over in 2013, the maximum benefit a citizen of North Carolina could receive was $530 a month. Prior to 2013, unemployment benefits lasted up to 73 weeks. After Republican cuts, unemployment benefits could only last up to 20 weeks. As a result, 173,000 North Carolinians were kicked off of their benefits which resulted in a loss of $780 million in benefits for North Carolinians facing tough times. As of 2018, our state placed dead last in the duration of unemployment benefits in the United States.

For a decade Republicans slashed unemployment benefits and when a crisis hit, our hard-working families got the short end of the stick. Our state has been forced to scramble to provide the support our families have always deserved, and we are still falling short.

We must do better by our workers who have had to deal with unemployment in the face of the worst pandemic in over 100 years. In times like this it cannot be clearer that unemployment is meant to support workers in tough times. We must increase the benefits we offer our unemployed and expand the duration of time one can use the benefits to get back on their feet and rejoin the workforce. When our state fails to provide adequate benefits, then we become reliant on the federal government to apply a one-size fits all solution, and no one knows better how to take care of our state than working North Carolinians.