North Carolina's junior United States Senator Thom Tillis, a Republican, spoke with WXII via Skype Thursday afternoon on a variety of topics related to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic fallout.
He is one of President Trump's biggest supporters in Washington and last summer, President Trump endorsed him in his re-election bid this November. Tillis faces Democrat Cal Cunningham in the general election.
As the number of positive COVID-19 cases nationwide has now surpassed 213,000 and the number of deaths has topped 4,500, we asked Sen. Tillis what he believes the White House has done well as it responds to this crisis and what President Trump and his team need to improve. He compared it to forecasting a hurricane.
"You try to figure out how to put resources where they're supposed to be. The storm track changes and you made decisions that prove not to be accurate. You did it based on the best available information. I think what President Trump has demonstrated more recently in the calls this week and press conferences is that we have to practice social distancing. We have to obey the orders of state and local officials who are asking people to stay at home," he said.
Returning to normal
Whether you're age 9 or 90, everyone wants to know when life, as we recently knew it, will go back to normal. When will children return to school, workers to their jobs, when will sports resume, dining rooms of restaurants reopen, and when the days of social distancing be over?
Sen. Tillis said he was on a call with NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin today and that very topic came up. He says Dr. Fauci told him you can't answer that question until we see more and more people follow the proper guidelines.
"It could be a matter of weeks, it could be a matter of months," Sen. Tillis says, adding "once we reach the peak of the curve, which I believe is going to happen in the coming weeks, we cannot take our foot off the accelerator."
Responding to record unemployment
Earlier in the day Thursday, the US Labor Department reported a record 6.6 million Americans filed new bankruptcy protection claims in the last week. The previous record of 3.28 million was set the week prior. Sen. Tillis says he has a message for the many North Carolinians who already have, or fear they will lose their jobs as a result of COVID-19.
"Help is on the way. The reason we came together on a bipartisan basis and passed that historic stabilization bill last week was we knew this was going to happen with the travel restrictions and mandatory closings of businesses. We knew that people were going to be out of work on a short-term basis. That's why we've provided economic assistance directly to families."
Late Thursday afternoon, Mnuchin announced people could expect to begin seeing direct deposits in their checking accounts in the next two weeks rather than the next three weeks.
The red tape has also been removed for people on social security and disability pay. They no longer need to fill out any additional forms. People who did not file a tax return in 2019 or 2018 should visit IRS.gov, according to Sen. Tillis, and fill out a Free Form for 2020 so the IRS can get checks out to them as quickly as possible.
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