‘Cooper has a crisis within a crisis … and he needs to do more than tell officials to move faster…’
(Joshua Paladino, Liberty Headlines) North Carolina‘s two largest newspapers ran identical editorials on Monday that criticized Gov. Roy Cooper for the state’s unemployment “disaster.”
The editorial ran in the Charlotte Observer and Raleigh’s News and Observer, both owned by the same parent company, McClatchy.
It said that “hundreds of thousands” of North Carolinians still have not received unemployment compensation after “two months” for a process that should take “two weeks.”
Neither Cooper nor the state’s unemployment office have explained what the problems are.
“I am pushing them to move faster,” Cooper said at a news conference last week.
The editorial said Cooper is coming close to “blame shifting,” at a time when he needs to “own this problem, address it, and fix it.”
The situation in North Carolina is not much different from the rest of the country.
Less than 60 percent of Americans who have applied for unemployment benefits have received them, CNBC reported. North Carolina is at about the same percentage.
But the editorial said bureaucratic mismanagement within the state’s Division of Employment Security had been a significant factor for North Carolina’s troubles.
“Cooper has a crisis within a crisis with the mess at DES, and he needs to do more than tell officials to move faster,” the editorial board wrote.
Many people cannot even speak with the state about unemployment.
“At the least, they need to know what’s going on,” the editorial board wrote. “In North Carolina, communication is sparse and it’s too difficult to get a human on the phone.”
State Sen. Jeff Jackson, D-Mecklenburg, said state officials answer the phone, but then do not know how to help citizens.
“They have to make sure the person who answers can actually help,” Jackson said. “And that’s been an issue.”
The DES has 1,100 employees to answer 50,000 calls per day, but the state recently hired 350 more employees.
“Even that isn’t really sufficient,” Jackson. “They really need to staff beyond average daily capacity to make sure they bring down wait times and can handle days (like last Monday) when calls topped 70,000.”
Despite their criticisms, both newspaper still lauded Cooper’s decision to put North Carolina’s residents into “very necessary stay-at-home restrictions that followed.”
The Democratic governor, who faces re-election in November with Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest posing a strong challenge.
Cooper initially encountered strong backlash for his authoritarian quarantine orders, but he has used at least the appearance of easing restrictions to placate conservative protestors within the volatile swing state.
North Carolina was slated to move into phase 2 of its reopening process on Friday, allowing some businesses to partially resume under tight social-distancing restrictions.
However, that phase was expected to continue for several more weeks before Cooper might reassess whether to fully reopen.
Republican leaders, including U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop, a staunch supporter of returning to normalcy, have criticized Cooper for lacking transparency in the process behind his arbitrary decision-making.
“He doesn’t give us data or the models that are underlying his evaluation,” Bishop told Newsmax TV in April.
Liberty Headlines’ Ben Sellers contributed to this report.