Senator David Perdue: Why We Need to Continue Opening the Economy

Sen. David Perdue

Friday, May 15th, 2020

Since the Covid-19 crisis began, tens of millions of Americans have filed for unemployment. Consumer confidence has fallen dramatically. Small businesses, which operate on thin margins even in the best of times, are hanging by a thread. This should be a glaring wake-up call: we must continue taking critical steps to reopen the economy. 

Many states have already started to reopen as their case numbers fall. Yet many people are wondering how we can go back to work without causing a spike in new Covid-19 cases.

Thankfully, we don’t have to choose between saving our economy from collapse and protecting public health. There is a balanced approach we can take to ensure neither of these horrific outcomes happen.

President Trump recently laid out a three-phased plan to reopen our economy safely and responsibly. He also created the Taskforce on Economic Recovery, on which I proudly serve, to advise the President and his team on the best strategies for implementing this plan.

First, we have to ensure our healthcare system has the testing capabilities and resources necessary to identify and contain the virus. To this end, Congress has appropriated $55.4 billion for vaccines, testing, and personal protective equipment (PPE). President Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to quickly manufacture PPE and directed FEMA to accelerate the transportation and distribution of supplies around the country. 

Once robust testing and healthcare resources are in place, we need to determine which sectors of our economy and which regions of our country can begin to fully reopen. For those that do, we need to follow proper protocols to keep people safe. 

I recently toured Fort Benning and learned how the Army is using creative screening, hygiene, and distancing protocols to safely continue their critical operations. Businesses all across the country could follow suit.

In addition to the military, there are thousands of “essential” businesses, like health care, food supply, and energy supply chain companies around the country that have been coping with this new reality. We should learn from them and help other businesses adopt their strategies.

Through all of this, we must continue protecting the most vulnerable in our communities, such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. We must ramp up testing and development of new treatments and vaccines.

We don’t have to guess whether this approach will work. Other countries who are ahead of us in this process, such as New Zealand, South Korea, and Japan, have been planning policies like these well before their case numbers peaked.

Critics may insinuate that we’re prioritizing capital over human lives. That’s nonsense. We are simply attempting to prevent a long-term economic crisis from replacing this current public health crisis.

Right now, “elective” medical procedures, like cancer treatments and heart check-ups, are still stalled even in some hospitals with no Covid-19 cases. Supply chains for pharmaceuticals and other life-giving goods are being disrupted. Thousands of small business owners are unsure if they can ever rehire those they have laid off.

If we were to extend this shutdown, the economic toll for every American, not to mention the psychological toll of continued isolation and joblessness, would be severe and long-lasting. 

What has made our economy the greatest in human history is our unrivaled ability to innovate, form capital, and create the goods and services that keep society afloat. No relief package can replace the power of the American entrepreneur.

In President Trump’s economic turnaround, before this crisis began, over 7 million new jobs had been created. Unemployment was at record lows. 2.5 million people had lifted themselves out of poverty.

Here’s the good news: if we continue to gradually reopen the economy at our current pace and keep our citizens healthy and safe, we could see a return to the historic economic turnaround we were previously experiencing. Our goal is to make sure 33 million Americans who have since lost their jobs will be earning a paycheck again.