By Kaylee Cook
North Carolina Treasurer Dale Folwell paid a visit to Western Carolina University last Thursday to speak with students about the roles of the state treasury.
Folwell, a Republican, was elected to the treasury position in 2016 and re-elected for his second term in 2020. Before taking on the role, Folwell served in the N.C. House of Representatives for the 74th district, which includes Forsyth County, from 2005 to 2013. He also served as the Speaker Pro Tempore of the N.C. House of Representatives from 2011-13.
Like most everything in the world, COVID-19 has impacted Folwell’s job.
“We have had nearly $200 million of COVID-related expenses with the testing, treatment and administration of the vaccine, for which we still haven’t been reimbursed by the General Assembly,” Folwell said.
North Carolina has received federal funds to help cover the $200 million dollar expense, he said.
“The state really won the lottery three times with COVID relief,” Folwell said. “What happens is we apply for that CARES Act money, and once it’s approved by the federal government it gets wired to the Treasurer’s Office and we put it in things that earn interest until the General Assembly or the governor directs us on what to do with it.”
In April 2020, Folwell announced that North Carolina had already received $2 billion in relief funds from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), a $2.2 trillion stimulus bill passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in March 2020.
As the keeper of the purse, Folwell’s job includes keeping this money in interest accruing accounts until legislative bodies determine how to spend it. While $2 billion seems like a huge amount of money to be responsible for, it is just a fraction of the money that Folwell and the Treasury Department manages.
“As North Carolina State Treasurer I have sole fiduciary responsibility for a $124 billion pension plan,” Folwell said. “That $124 billion is five times larger than the state budget that’s being debated as we’re standing here, and the pension plan is half of what we do. If you add in the state health plan, pharmaceutical benefits for state employees and the state banks it adds up to a quarter of a trillion dollars.”
A potential federal government shutdown would not affect pension payments to state government retirees.
“The money that we have for state and local retirees is in North Carolina,” Folwell said. “It’s managed in North Carolina and those checks are sent out of North Carolina. So, there will be zero impact.”
Folwell ended his speech by reminding students that the best way to manage any type of responsibility and to ensure a job well done is to always be the person who has integrity above anything else and to be the person who volunteers for the hard jobs.
“From this point forward I hope that everyone of you, when people ask for volunteers for the hardest jobs, I want to see your hand go up,” Folwell said. “That’s the way you’re going to get ahead in life. Secondly, the culture we have built at the Treasurer’s Office is built on integrity, ability and passion. At the end of the day, what will matter is integrity, and integrity is what you do when no one is watching.”
Kaylee Cook is a Sylva Herald intern.