WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The Wilmington Chamber of Commerce hosted their elected officials BBQ this evening, recognizing New Hanover, Brunswick, Columbus, and Pender Counties.
It was the first major in-person event in more than 15 months for the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce. Chamber President and CEO Natalie English says these officials serve their communities every single day.
“For them to hear directly from us is important and they’re very accommodating,” English said. “They do listen to us and today we’re able to say thank you.”
Public officials from boards of education, county commissioners, city councils, as well as state officials, like Republican Senator Michael Lee were at the event.
“When we are here and we have gatherings it’s great to be able to come out,” Senator Lee said. “It’s great to be able to bring my son because I’m out of town a lot and come to these events and get a chance to talk to folks about what they’re thinking about and concerned about.”
A hot topic at the event was whether or not to end the additional unemployment assistance.
“We in the Senate are looking about converting those unemployment benefits and utilizing those as a bonus for those who get a job,” Lee said. “One, we want to support people and provide that safety net. On another hand, we really want to help business to incent folks to go ahead and get back to work.”
Lee adds that most Republican senators have written letters to the federal government to see if that conversion would be possible.
Democratic representative Deb Butler says that if we can give businesses a much-needed tax benefit, the benefits for workers can continue as well.
“I think it’s short-sighted to try to drive them back into the job market,” Butler said. “Listen, our unemployment numbers are dropping week over week, we are way below the national average so people are going back to work. So don’t buy the rhetoric that says people are lazy and staying home and not working. There is pride in work, dignity in work, people are going back to work.”
Representative Butler is also calling for the minimum wage to be raised to a livable wage, emphasizing the importance of paying people for the value of their work.
Additionally, Butler highlighted the importance of Pride Month.
“Love is love and listen, if you are lucky enough in this life to find love, however, it is, then you better hold onto it with both hands because it’s nothing but beautiful and we should celebrate it,” Butler said.