Signed out
In basketball-obsessed North Carolina, March Madness took on a whole new meaning in 2020. The ACC Men's Basketball Tournament, which was being played in Greensboro, was forced to shut down amid growing concerns over Covid-19.

“You know there is a problem in North Carolina when you stop college basketball,” North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper reflected.

How the Tar Heel state would respond to the growing crisis fell to Cooper, the 75th governor in its history. The veteran Democratic pol — he served in the North Carolina General Assembly and as state attorney general — is no stranger to overcoming challenges and a tough political environment. Cooper was the first challenger to defeat a sitting governor in the state’s history. Still, “pandemic was not on the list of challenges that I anticipated as governor. Obviously, for all of us it was unchartered territory,” he said.

While many states struggled to just keep their residents employed, fed and housed, Cooper attempted to face the challenges head on. The governor tried to supplement federal funding in order to deploy resources to aid small and minority-owned businesses. When federal government assistance wasn’t enough, he rethought the state’s broadband infrastructure in rural and poor areas and took advantage of Americans looking to relocate to less populated areas. However, challenges remain, especially now that the Delta variant is spreading quickly in states like North Carolina where Covid-related hospitalizations have nearly quadrupled over the past month.

Basketball Game
Press Conference

How North Carolina was affected by COVID-19

Cooper became governor in 2017 in the wake of the state’s so-called “Bathroom Bill” that restricted transgender people’s use of public restrooms. He later successfully convinced the state legislature to repeal parts of the bill. Since getting elected, Cooper has worked overtime to restore the state’s reputation and woo back many of the businesses that had left amid the controversy. Even the NCAA had avoided the state, saying that it would be “challenging” to promote an inclusive sporting event with the restrictions in place.

By early 2020, things had returned mostly to normal as businesses and college sports were back in the state. Then Covid hit. Early on in the pandemic, Cooper said it became clear that states couldn’t rely on the federal government for mission critical items like personal protective equipment for its health care workers. After being promised and waiting futilely for the CDC to provide testing, Cooper said it became obvious that governors were going to have to take matters into their own hands. That meant doing everything from convincing textile manufacturers in the state to start making PPE, working closely with private medical labs such as LabCorp, which is based in North Carolina, and forming a consortium of states so that they wouldn’t be bidding against each other for necessary materials.

“Governors are CEOs of our state and we’re a different kind of elected official than members of legislatures and members of Congress and the U.S. Senate because we actually have to get things done in the middle of a pandemic... We had people getting sick and dying, we knew we had to step up and get the job done.”
– Roy Cooper, Governor of North Carolina

Still, employment in the state fell by 4.3 percent in 2020, with nearly 200,000 people losing their jobs. Yet, North Carolina’s unemployment rate was still better than the national average.

By The Numbers
Source: U.S. Census Bureau | U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis | BLS.gov
8.7%
Unemployment§
586.14 B
Gross Domestic Product
10,488,084
Resident Population¥
$54,602
Median Household Income¥
§
Numbers indicate % change in attributes from May 2020 to May 2021.
¥
As of 2019
As of 2020

Presented by

Google

According to a Connected Commerce Council study commissioned by Google in 2021, approximately 11 million small businesses nationally (37%) would have closed all or part of their business without digital tools as a result of COVID-19 and 87% of North Carolina small businesses increased their use of digital tools to stay resilient. To help small businesses in North Carolina, Google launched the Grow with Google Digital Coaches program in 2020. The program provides free hands-on coaching and digital skills training to help Black and Latino small businesses reach new customers, thrive online, and grow. Our North Carolina Digital Coach has already helped train nearly 2,148 small business owners.

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How North Carolina is handling COVID-19

Small businesses forced to close had few ways to get assistance in the wake of the public health emergency. The Small Business Administration - which provided loans from the federal government - were flooded with applications. Many businesses were struggling to get the money they needed so Cooper and his team sprung into action. He worked across the aisle with the Republican controlled state legislature to set up a $15 million Rapid Recovery Loan Program that would offer up to $50,000 to serve as a bridge for small businesses until they could get an SBA loan. That program was expanded and more than $100 million in small business loans were made available in the state, with 65 percent of the loans made to minority or women borrowers who owned businesses.

Additionally, Cooper tried to provide more assistance to those companies struggling to pay rent and to help women and minority-owned businesses who were left out of the Paycheck Protection Program because they lacked access to traditional banking. Cooper created a $40 million grant program — Mortgage Utility and Rent Relief Program — that helps businesses that had to be closed or limited for public health purposes offset costs like rent, mortgage interests and utility bills. The state also launched a $12 million grant program — RETOOL NC — that focused on helping women and minority-owned businesses that were left out of the PPP. Cooper has recommended an additional $40 million be set aside for the program.

The state also used its federal CARES Act money to create the HOPE Program. It's a statewide rental and utility assistance program designed to help keep people in their homes and also make sure landlords got paid during the eviction moratorium. The program has paid out $133 million to landlords and utility companies.

North Carolina Unemployment Rate

Source: BLS.gov

The people who make North Carolina work

Chief of Staff

Kristi Jones

Chief of Staff

Kristi Jones

Jones ensured that state agencies continued a high level of communication and function throughout the pandemic and was there to troubleshoot any gaps in coordination.

Secretary of North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services

Dr. Mandy Cohen

Secretary of North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services

Dr. Mandy Cohen

Cohen, a physician, is a regular presence at COVID-19 briefings, updating the state on the latest science and data. She marshaled the public health experts on her team to provide counsel to the governor on key decisions throughout the pandemic.

Governor's Director of North Carolina Pandemic Recovery

Lee Lilley

Governor's Director of North Carolina Pandemic Recovery

Lee Lilley

Lilley serves as a central coordinating point for pandemic recovery including much of the federal money that is flowing down to the state.

Secretary of the Department of Commerce

Machelle Sanders

Secretary of the Department of Commerce

Machelle Sanders

Sanders is working closely with Cooper to land major job announcements and power robust economic growth ensuring a shared recovery as the state emerges from the pandemic.

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What Was North Carolina Searching For?

The pulse of the state of North Carolina can been seen through the search results of the last year.

Political Issues

Top Searched Political Issues, 2021 in North Carolina

Source: Google Trends

unemployment
wages
healthcare
race
economy

What's next for North Carolina post COVID-19?

The rise of the Delta variant has complicated North Carolina’s recovery. At the end of July, Cooper issued a new executive order that all state employees who are not vaccinated should wear a mask and be tested weekly for Covid-19. The mandate also requires state agencies to report the total number of employees who are vaccinated. He encouraged private businesses to also require employees to be vaccinated and recommended that masks be worn in public schools by students and staff — even those who have been vaccinated.

And other issues like the digital divide remain a problem that the pandemic brought into focus as more students were homeschooled and employees transitioned to working from home. Cooper said he remains focused on bridging the digital divide. The state has more than a million people who lack high speed internet access.

Still, Cooper says the state is emerging from the pandemic in a stronger economic position than before. CNBC recently rated North Carolina as the No. 2 state in the country to do business. He’s also been able to attract businesses, including Apple, which recently announced it would locate its East Coast campus in the state. And he’s got plans for more: Cooper said he wants to ensure two million North Carolinians get a post-secondary education or credential in order to have an educated workforce ready to fill jobs for companies like BioGen, Fujifilm and health care giant Centene Corp.

Skyline
Billboard

From The Governor's Office

Havana Carolina

Presented by

Google

In 2015, Dania Ochoa Hernández and family came to the U.S. from Cuba in hopes of opening a restaurant. Two years later, along with her children Manny and Ana, they purchased the Havana Carolina Restaurant & Bar in Concord, North Carolina. The family uses a Business Profile on Google to help spread the word, with hours, directions, and more than 1,000 customer reviews from loyal customers in North Carolina and beyond. When the pandemic hit, it was those very customers that helped the business survive.

The family also had to adapt on the fly, updating their Business Profile on Google to show dine-in and takeout options, including online ordering, curbside pickup, and contactless delivery. “We’ve learned all the wonderful things you can do with a Business Profile on Google to market your small business,” says Ana. Now, the family has plans to open a new restaurant in Charlotte within the next year.

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