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Responding to the crisis before us

The financial, emotional, and physical toll that the COVID-19 health pandemic has put on our country can’t be overstated. This is a time for federal policymakers to come together – using every policy lever possible, every public resource available – to do all that we can to immediately protect and support workers and small businesses, who have seen the most devastating impacts of this crisis and are in need of the greatest support. Of course, the success of those measures depends on understanding the needs on the ground, hearing from business leaders grappling with this crisis, and developing solutions that actually respond to those needs.

What we are hearing

Through conversations with business leaders, chambers of commerce, and industry groups across the country, it is clear that this crisis impacts industries and communities in varying ways. Many industry sectors—and small businesses in nearly every sector—have been forced to lay off, furlough, or otherwise displace workers, with no certainty of the opportunity to re-hire them in the indefinite future. Many others have had to be adaptive, create new competencies and efficiencies, and redesign operations to be a part of this limited operating economy. This has included some remarkable examples of manufacturers adapting to produce ventilators and medical equipment in high demand during the crisis. But it also includes rapid reallocation of resources to different business units and operational priorities in order stay afloat. Still, many others are now faced with an even higher demand for skilled workers—like healthcare and supply chain/distribution—whose needs range from entry-level positions to among the highest skilled of America’s workers.

In all of these cases, the skills of America’s workers have become even more critical, both in terms of helping workers adapt to this rapidly changing workplace and in order to fill positions with critical demand. For the workers displaced by this crisis, immediate supports and access to new opportunities stand out as key priorities, both during this crisis and in the recovery to follow.

What we are doing

Business Leaders United has developed the following policy goals for an immediate stimulus package to assist workers who need income, healthcare, and housing today and to shore up small and mid-sized businesses trying to weather this crisis. We will release more detailed recommendations under these goals in the coming weeks. To stay informed about these recommendations, how we’re working with Congress to advance them, and how any passed legislation will impact your local community, please sign up for our email list

Recommendations for an immediate national stimulus:

  • Help small and mid-sized business avert layoffs: Help businesses keep their employees while they are paid and re-trained during and in the aftermath of COVID-19, including for jobs that are themselves rapidly changing with new technology. 
  • Provide comprehensive income, healthcare, and re-training support to all displaced workers: Guarantee access to income replacement, healthcare, and re-training for any displaced worker, including contingent workers. 

Additional recommendations for subsequent stimulus efforts

  • Address immediate shortages in industries needed to respond to crisis: Industries like healthcare, logistics, and manufacturing are essential to responding to COVID-19 and are already facing severe shortages of trained workers.
  • Update education and training policies to respond to the marketplace disruption we’re currently experiencing: Ensure that our higher education policies support the infrastructure and flexibility required for short-term digital learning to get displaced workers retrained quickly. This effort will help shore up the country for future disruptions whether they are health, environmental, trade, or technology related. This will also require a national effort to address the disproportionately low digital literacy skills among workers in industries like food service and retail that will be most impacted by job loss due to COVID-19.
  • Invest in infrastructure – and the skilling for infrastructure industries – to more fully leverage a displaced workforce: There is strong bi-partisan support for a major effort to re-build our nation’s infrastructure, which could create millions of jobs that will be needed even more coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. BLU is leading efforts to develop a workforce training and re-employment title within anticipated federal infrastructure proposals.

As all of us continue to grapple with the impact of this epidemic, and as we continue to learn more about the needs of the business community, BLU welcomes your feedback on the challenges you are facing, the ways you have worked to address them, and the support you need from your local, state, and federal policymakers. If you have any questions about these proposals or would like to provide feedback, please reach out to robg@businessleadersunited.org.


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