Governor Cooper Issues Executive Order to Close Sit-Down Service at Restaurants and Bars and Make State Unemployment Benefits More Widely Available
Funds will help workers forced to go without a paycheck, waives requirements to speed up benefit eligibility
Today (March 17), Governor Roy Cooper announced that North Carolina restaurants and bars will be closed to sit-down service and limited to take-out or delivery orders starting at 5 pm tonight, March 17, 2020. Grocery stores, gas stations, and convenience stores, are exempt from this order and will remain open, though they may not serve sit-down food.
Additionally, the order lifts some restrictions on unemployment benefits to help workers unemployed due to Covid-19 and those who are employed but will not receive a paycheck. Additionally, it adds benefit eligibility for those out of work because they have the virus or must care for someone who is sick.
“We did not come to this decision easily. But North Carolina must keep fighting this pandemic with the right weapons,” said Governor Cooper. “During this time of uncertainty, I will keep working to protect the health and safety of North Carolinians and keep our state’s economy afloat.”
This Order will directly aid workers who may have lost wages in restaurants and meeting places due to mass gathering restrictions. For example, workers who lose income due to tips or scheduled work hours, but are still employed, would be eligible for benefits because of this Executive Order. Among other changes:
- It removes the one-week waiting period to apply for unemployment payment for those workers who lose their jobs;
- It removes the requirement that a person must be actively looking for another job during this time when many potential employers are closed and social distancing guidelines are in effect.
- It allows employees who lose their jobs or, in certain cases have their hours reduced due to Covid-19 to apply for unemployment benefits.
- It directs that employers will not be held responsible for benefits paid as a direct result of these COVID-19 claims.
- It waives the requirement that people must apply for benefits in person; workers can apply for benefits online or by phone.
Lt. Governor Forest Questions Validity of Restaurant Ban:
Raleigh, N.C. – Earlier today Governor Cooper announced, via a press release, that all North Carolina restaurants and bars must close in-restaurant seating by 5pm this evening. “His mandate will devastate our economy, shutter many small businesses, and leave many people unemployed, especially in the rural areas of our state where food supply is already critical,” said Lt. Governor Dan Forest.
“After the press release, and shortly before a scheduled press conference, I, along with other Council of State members, was asked to concur with the Governor’s decision with no discussion. The Governor held his press conference and made the announcement even after a majority of the Council of State voted not to concur with the Governor. Thus, he does not have the authority to issue this part of his executive order,” Forest stated.
“While I understand that all actions in a time of crisis are very difficult decisions and have many consequences, some decisions are so serious they require, by law, discussion with, and approval of, other state leaders,” the Lt. Governor concluded.