Governor Roy Cooper signed an executive order expanding unemployment benefits during the coronavirus pandemic so that workers affected by restaurant, bar, and event closures can more easily get benefits. It was announced along with his decision to close all bars and restaurants for dine-in service in the state.

“These changes are designed to lessen the hit on our economy, and workers’ wallets,” Cooper said in a press conference. “We know people want to work, and businesses want to stay open. The reality is that many can’t.”

The order lifts week-long waiting period to apply for unemployment benefits after losing a job, voids the requirement that applicants must be looking for a new job to receive benefits, allows employees with reduced hours to seek unemployment, and allows everyone to apply over the phone or online.

It also absolves employers from penalties for these unemployment losses by not holding them responsible for COVID-19 claims.

This comes after Cooper banned gatherings of more than 100 people Saturday, although bars and restaurants were excluded at the time. Cooper says grocery stores and pharmacies will stay open, but asks people “not to go overboard.”

In the press conference, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Mandy Cohen reinforced the standard recommendations being given by health professionals and the CDC (wash your hands, avoid large groups of people, cough and sneeze into your elbow), but mentioned that these recommendations could change. While public schools are closed for the next two weeks, daycare centers are not required to close.

If you want to order takeout from your favorite local restaurants, the INDY has a list of places offering pickup and delivery. If you want to find ways to lend a hand, there is a list of fundraisers and volunteer opportunities.

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