It’s hard to open a newspaper, flip on the computer, or turn on a television without being inundated with news about COVID-19, often by stories detailing how bleak the economic outlook is becoming for individuals and businesses of all sizes.
Another economic victim not covered as much are local governments, who are losing significant revenue with the loss of sales tax dollars, user fees and other revenue sources.
State Treasurer Dale Folwell said that is of grave concern to him, with many localities around the state in poor financial shape before the pandemic.
He made his comments during a recent interview with The Mount Airy News, in which he talked about balancing public health concern with economic concerns, the safety of the state pension plan, the relative fiscal strength of the Mount Airy budget, and his frustration with Gov. Roy Cooper’s pandemic response that, he claims, has been undertaken without any input from the state’s Council of Government.
That body consists of the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, auditor, treasurer, superintendent of public instruction, attorney general, commissioner of agriculture, commissioner of labor and commissioner of insurance.
While the body, as a whole, has no legislative power, it’s sometimes used as a way to keep the various branches of government coordinated and informed on policies coming from the governor’s office.
”I’m highly concerned because people are not in motion, and therefore they can’t consume,” he said of the economic fallout from the statewide shutdown, and how that translates to local and state revenue. “When they can’t consume, everything stops. … A lot of the monies local government depends on are not going to be there, starting with the gas tax, permit fees, sales tax, tourism dollars, occupancy tax.”
Folwell, a COVID-19 victim who is still recovering from his bout with the virus, said he understands the need for caution and for health concerns, but at some point that has to be balanced against economic damage the shutdown is inflicting on the state and localities.
“We’re now facing an economic virus. It seems that any time we’re facing an economic virus, it’s lower income people who get hurt the worst. We have to work within all of our duties and responsibilities to make sure … we are doing everything we can to not create more economic inequality, which is what I’m fearful is about to happen.”
While he thinks it’s great that a number of businesses have been able to shift gears and allow their people to work from home, that hasn’t been the case for vast numbers of individuals in North Carolina.
“There’s a lot of people, their way of making a living is with their hands, back and feet.” And those people, he said, are the ones who stand…