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Gov. Cooper calls for Medicaid expansion, teacher pay raises, workforce training during State of the State address

Custom Contract Furnishing in High Point and the Bar-B-Q Center in Lexington got a shout out in the Governor's speech on Monday night.

RALEIGH, N.C. — Governor Roy Cooper delivered his third State of the State address Monday night.

He spoke about the state’s resilience throughout the pandemic and the continued need for lawmakers to work together in the future.

“I believe that North Carolina is Strong, Resilient and Ready to face the challenges of the future,” Cooper said. “I believe that we will rebuild from this pandemic to be even stronger than before. And I believe that we can roar into the future together, creating a shared recovery that ensures our best days lie ahead.”

He spoke about expanding Medicaid, raising teacher pay, investing in workforce training also solidifying the state’s infrastructure.

Cooper urged lawmakers to expand Medicaid as more federal money is available. He said expanding it would provide billions to help more than 500,000 North Carolinians. The expansion would also help rural hospitals and mental services.

Cooper also wants legislatures to invest in K-12 and higher education, teacher pay, infrastructure, high-speed internet and clean energy economic development.

“In a year of hardship and loss, we owe it to ourselves and each other – and, as leaders, we owe it to the people who elected us – to build a state that is truly more educated, equitable, healthier and prosperous,” Cooper said.

Cooper also highlighted two Triad businesses during his speech. He talked about High Point furniture company, Custom Contract Furnishings and how the company helped hospital workers. 

"We did this because we wanted to do the right thing and help our state," Chris Morris said.

Morris is the Vice President of Custom Contract Furnishings which switched from making upholstery to making hospital gowns last spring. He said the goal at first was to help keep employees on the payroll.

"We started out early, we weren't planning on doing this more than two or three months and we're just finishing up our final DLA contract as of this week," Morris said.

In the last year, he said they sent the gowns to hospitals in our state along with Connecticut, Georgia and Florida. They also ended up adding 50 employees.

"This kind of ingenuity and resourcefulness," Governor Cooper said, "Helped us get desperately needed PPE to frontline workers when they didn't have enough."

He also spoke about Cecil Conrad in Lexington who owns The Bar-B-Q Center.

"Together, we're helping small business owners bounce back with Federal funds for their rent and utilities," Cooper said.

The Bar-B-Q Center received Mortgage, Utility and Rent Relief (MURR) Funds from the state.

"We retained our employees and used it towards the purchase of some cleaning supplies we don't normally use like hand sanitizer and masks," Conrad said.

Both Conrad and Morris got the chance to speak to Governor Cooper last week.

"It was an honor just to hear him," Morris said.

Conrad hopes more business restrictions will ease on June 1, in line with the Governor's goal. He said planning for the 2021 Barbecue Festival is underway.

"We've been here for over 60 years and we want to continue to stay here," Conrad said, "We feel pretty good about where we're headed."

Morris said PPE manufacturing is moving back to Asia and the company is getting back to making upholstery. They are hoping to find a way to keep making PPE going forward.

"We're all rallying trying to keep the PPE industry going but also opening up our state," Morris said.

North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore responded to Gov. Cooper's State of the State address Monday night. 

"Despite being from different political parties, both Governor Cooper and legislative Republicans have many of the same end goals in mind. We all want North Carolina to be a place where people can have good jobs, safe homes, and provide their children the very best educational opportunities," said Speaker Moore. 

You can read Speaker Moore's full response to the Governor's address by clicking here.