By Sarah Davasher-Wisdom
GLI President & CEO
Earlier this month, national economic data showed the second consecutive month of unexpected job growth and increased employment amidst the global pandemic of COVID-19.
This is excellent news, but it comes with caveats: millions remain unemployed, businesses continue to struggle and shutter, and the virus is surging in parts of the country. An honest assessment of the economic recovery and our fight against the coronavirus should be one of uncertainty.
Against this backdrop, Congress has understandably taken a “wait-and-see” approach to another relief package. The CARES Act, after all, was the largest economic stimulus package in American history and will take time to permeate throughout our economy.
But this cocktail of good and bad news makes it increasingly clearer that additional relief from Washington will be needed. Congress should pass a fourth coronavirus package to build on the progress achieved by the CARES Act, and it should do so this month.
Throughout the pandemic, GLI has focused on listening closely to the needs of regional businesses and communicating those needs to members of our congressional delegation. In April and May, for example, we heard from employers about the need for increased flexibility in the Paycheck Protection Program, a new loan program created by the CARES Act.
We joined business organizations from around the country in communicating this need to lawmakers like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth. These efforts contributed to passage of the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act, signed into law by President Trump in early June.
We have also actively stressed the importance of federal support for the childcare sector and are continually working to raise awareness around this critical issue.
GLI is taking a similar approach to a fourth coronavirus relief package by leveraging our federal agenda, a document driven by our members, which outlines the Greater Louisville business community’s top federal priorities. Regional business leaders completed GLI’s 2020-21 agenda in June and proposed a framework for legislation that will support our region throughout the pandemic and well into the economic recovery. This framework rests on five pillars:
- Robust legal liability protections for employers from opportunistic lawsuits seeking to exploit the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19
- Regulatory flexibility and clear guidance from federal agencies so that businesses can appropriately adapt their operations, comply with new health and safety regulations, and help fight the coronavirus
- Continuous funding of small business loan and grant programs and reevaluation and analysis of these programs to ensure ample flexibility and effectiveness
- Refocusing federal workforce and training programs to assist workers displaced by the pandemic so that they can transition off unemployment, develop new skills, and return to the workforce
- Dedication of large-scale resources to protect public health and our health care infrastructure
In addition to these focal points, GLI’s federal agenda also highlights our regional business community’s ideas for tax policies to support the economic recovery, infrastructure funding, early childhood education and development, environmental regulations, treatment for substance use disorder, and more.
Guiding the nation through this unprecedented crisis will require a wide range of bold ideas and close attention to the most pressing needs of communities and individuals. GLI is working actively to make sure the ideas and needs of the Greater Louisville business community are effectively made known to policymakers, but ultimately it will fall on Congress to act and turn these ideas into a reality.
The pursuit of sustained recovery must be inclusive. As our nation continues to navigate the uncharted waters of life with COVID-19, we must also address long-term issues of racial inequality and commit to working with our elected officials on solutions to support all parts of our communities and economies.
GLI will be convening its Business Council to End Racism in the coming weeks to re-engage on a variety of policy recommendations with a focus to address racism, inequities, and solutions to support communities of color.
Our message to Washington is a simple one: Keep your foot on the pedal. The data is showing that congressional efforts like the CARES Act are working. Now is the time to build on that progress and ensure the success of our economic recovery for all.