Good luck, figure it out

Published 5:28 pm Tuesday, September 22, 2020

With leadership comes responsibility, and nowhere in North Carolina is that responsibility sitting more heavily right now than on the shoulders of Gov. Roy Cooper. Since March, the decisions he has made, in collaboration with a wide range of officials at the state level, have affected the daily lives of North Carolinians in ways no one could have imagined just one year ago.

While those decisions have been made with the good intention of slowing the spread of COVID-19, they have also had unintended consequences of economic turmoil, financial struggles for families, children falling behind in their education and some businesses having to keep their doors closed for the better part of a year.

At Monday’s special meeting of the Beaufort County Board of Education, multiple board members expressed frustration at essentially being between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, they have limited options because of the restrictions and regulations that they must follow from the state. Those, in turn, must be balanced with the challenges of logistics, public opinion, student needs and stressed out, overworked staff members, at a time when the rules of the game seem to change weekly.

Their situation is but one of countless instances of Beaufort County residents who have had to “figure it out” during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout our community, people have had to cope with shutdowns, layoffs, lost wages, finding childcare and adapting to regulations that seem to permeate every layer of daily life, not to mention the concern that COVID-19 could change or take the life of someone they love.

So what support do they have? While many nonprofits and some government agencies have been extraordinarily responsive to the struggles of the people, others have not. There are still people waiting for stimulus checks from the federal government. There are still people waiting for unemployment benefits, owed from back in March or April, to come through. Even still, there are businesses that have received zero-to-little help to offset the costs of closing their doors.

That is not a failure of any one particular person — it’s indicative of a system that is just not working as it should during one of the most trying times in recent American history.

It remains to be seen what the overall impact of COVID-19 will be on our society, in terms of economics, education and lives affected by the virus. We may not know the real impact for many years to come. But right now, in this moment, leaders at the federal, state and local level have a responsibility to provide meaningful help to the citizens they have been elected to serve. That’s the responsibility of leadership, and “Good luck, figure it out” just isn’t cutting it.