Agree on economic action
Coronavirus is wreaking havoc on a previously strong economy with workers and small businesses caught in the crossfire. Jobless claims are expected to top two and a half million in one week as a result of the economic shock from coronavirus. Every major economic forecast is predicting some type of national recession.
West Virginia must take action to save jobs, support small businesses, and sustain our people through these uncertain and treacherous times.
First, we’ve got to recognize that a pandemic-induced economic crisis is just about as “rainy” as things can get. The state’s Rainy Day Fund has over $850 million in it with easy access to about $150 million. The middle of an economic crisis is not the time to be raising taxes, laying people off, or cutting to the bone. The Rainy Day Fund needs to be the key funding mechanism for an economic response to coronavirus.
We have got to get help to our small businesses. In “How To Rescue Main Street From Coronavirus Before It’s Too Late,” economists Adam Ozimek and John Lettieri lay out what this kind of approach would look like. Zero-interest refinancing for businesses that are in trouble would help get them through this crisis and put them in a better long-term position to grow once the virus has passed.
If we lose our small businesses, any economic recovery will benefit only a select few major companies (Amazon, Apple, etc.). Without local business, we won’t be able to rebuild our local economy.
Unemployment insurance has got to work when people need it most. Any state economic response to coronavirus must guarantee that the Unemployment Trust Fund won’t be allowed to go bust. People who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own can’t be forced into foreclosure, putting off bills, foregoing medications, and cutting back on essentials because the state failed to make the necessary commitment to the unemployed.
Even if you disagree with both points I’m making here, one thing is absolutely certain: nothing can happen without a special session of the Legislature. Whether it’s the Governor or legislative leaders, our elected officials need to be agreeing on a course of action and then pass it as quickly as possible.
People are hurting now. More people are going to be hurting. Putting the interests of the people first, and doing it quickly, has never been more important.