RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – CBS 17’s Russ Bowen spoke one-on-one with North Carolina U.S. Senate candidate Cal Cunningham on Monday. Below is a transcription of Cunningham’s comments on the coronavirus pandemic, the problems facing rural hospitals in the state, the federal economic stimulus efforts, and more.
Q: When it comes to the money that’s been spent or sent out all over the country including North Carolina regarding COVID-19 what are you asking for in terms of accountability for those funds?
A: We’ve just had $2.2 trillion expenditure from the federal government. And it’s been my experience in serving in the Army and one of the experiences I had both in Iraq and Afghanistan is, when it comes to federal money, we need oversight, accountability. We need checks and balances within how that money is spent.
And there were original versions of the CARES Act that did not include important oversight. We identified that and that’s an incredibly important part. Congress has a role, our senators have a role. As the senator from North Carolina, I think one of the roles that I would intend to play is to provide oversight for how the money is spent. And we know it from past efforts during staunch economic disruption that money gets misspent, ends up in the wrong hands, it ends up in executive compensation or stock buybacks. So, I have called for vigorous oversight of how this money is spent.
Second, I am very deeply concerned about the replacement of the Inspectors General. No sooner than the ink got put on that bill that there was an effort to undermine some of the oversight that was included in the legislation. And among that was a replacement of the Inspectors General, who’s job it was supposed to be to look after where this money is going. I’ve seen how we have gone awry in the past and, as a senator, I think it’s incumbent on voicing that and that’s what I would intend to do as our senator for North Carolina.
Q: I come from a very rural county, Washington County, where the hospital was shut down for quite a while. We’ve got several counties communities in our state (that) don’t have a hospital. For instance, (in) Warren County they have to share with Vance County. How do we fix that problem, especially now that it’s really been highlighted by this crisis?
A: One of the things that I’ve been talking to people, and I’m having town halls via Zoom every day, I’m hearing from people especially in small-town rural North Carolina, that we need to be especially vigilant about the needs. In the recent demands for healthcare, I have called for the expansion of Medicaid. That’s one of the tools in the Affordable Care Act toolbox. My opponent in this election, Thom Tillis, passed a law that stands in the way of Gov. Cooper extending that coverage today.
There are more people (who) are showing up needing care today than a month ago and many of them who don’t qualify for existing coverage. And Medicaid can be one of the pieces of the puzzle. I’ve also called for a public option to be added to the Affordable Care Act that can catch people when employer coverage collapses. And with hundreds of thousands of jobs lost in North Carolina, we need more vigorous solutions. I think this is important to people. I think this is (an) important role for us to play and is something I look forward to as a U.S. Senator.
Q: I have to ask you to comment or at least give your take on the President’s assertion yesterday that he has the final authority over the nation’s governors.
A: We have a system of checks and balances. Congress has a critical role in helping govern this country, as does the President, as do the courts. What we have here is our governor, Roy Cooper, a separate sovereign who is doing a really terrific job in a difficult time to help us here at home navigate this crisis. What is clear is that all forms of government need to be working together across party lines to make sure that people are safe, and we’re able to start the challenge in front of us and turn the corner on this virus, and get this economy back open to moving again.
It’s going to require all of us working together to achieve that.