A man wearing a mask depicting American flags jogs past the U.S. Capitol Building, Tuesday, April 28, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Photo: Andrew Harnik
Photo: Andrew Harnik

Opinion: A plan to help lift U.S. economy past this pandemic

My first priority during the COVID-19 pandemic has been to do all I can to keep Georgians healthy. From helping Georgia hospitals get the resources they need, to working to get telehealth and rural healthcare provisions included in the CARES Act, the health and safety needs of our state have driven my actions. This intense focus on the needs of our people has also brought to light the emerging societal and economic impacts of the dramatic measures required to fight this unprecedented health crisis.

Earlier this week, the Commerce Department announced that first quarter U.S. GDP declined 4.8%, a drop not seen in over a decade. Also, this week, initial jobless claims have surpassed 30 million in just six weeks’ time. One in five Georgians are unemployed, and those numbers are rising. As alarming as they are, the numbers alone do not convey the full costs of the pandemic – futures impacted, the isolation, domestic abuse, substance abuse, depression and, tragically, suicide. We need to begin to look ahead, to plan for a future that protects Americans’ lives and their livelihoods.

As a member of the President’s Opening Up America Again Congressional Group, I’m putting to work my nearly three decades of experience building companies and creating jobs in which I helped grow a startup into a Fortune 500 company with 6,000 employees. Over the last few weeks, I have held more than 100 calls to hear directly from Georgia hospitals, state officials, first responders, food banks, small business owners, farmers, large employers, nonprofits and chambers of commerce, and the administration to address the needs of Georgians.

With my experience and the feedback I’ve heard from Georgia, I developed the USA Restoring and Igniting the Strength of our Economy (USA RISE) Plan to bring back our thriving economy. It offers a framework for investing in America, growing jobs, and helping families. The USA RISE Plan builds on the success of President Trump’s America First agenda of creating jobs, reducing bureaucracy and lowering taxes, without permanently expanding the grip of the federal government. And it calls on those of us in Congress to ensure the relief already passed in the CARES Act and in Phase 3.5 is targeted to fund those areas of the economy that need it most while providing prudent oversight.

The first pillar – Made in the USA – addresses the fact that, for too long, our manufacturing has moved overseas. Now, more than ever, we are reminded of how dangerous it is to rely on other countries, especially China. My plan calls for incentivizing companies to return to the United States and investing in infrastructure to spur economic development, ensuring that America is the best country in the world to do business. That includes having a competitive tax framework to spur hiring and capital expenditures.

I grew up the fourth generation on my family’s farm and know firsthand the challenges farmers and agriculture producers face. Couple that with the food security that we need to address, the second pillar of my plan – Grown in the USA – is aimed at helping strengthen our farmers who put their businesses on the line every day to feed America. Only 2% of our population are farmers, but 100% of us eat. Today, we see the contrast in that producers are dumping milk, while Americans are seeing empty grocery shelves or local food banks that are depleted. The Georgia Food Bank Association told me they have seen a roughly 40% increase in demand.

I have talked with many small business owners, who employ half of all Americans and have been particularly hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic. The third component of my plan – Hiring in the USA – proposes removing regulatory barriers and cutting taxes to help small businesses keep employees on the payroll and create jobs. Importantly, it reinforces the need to reduce the temptation for trial lawyers to use COVID-19 lawsuits to drain profits from employers at the expense of productive jobs.

Finally, we need to support families in building strong futures. Right now, too many families have lost their incomes and are struggling to afford their rent and put food on the table. The fourth component in my plan – Families in the USA – aims to provide targeted relief for families and children. Among other things, it supports organizations that help families – like the YMCA’s across our state, which are the largest provider of childcare in Georgia and are providing thousands of meals to families each week.

Before this pandemic hit, we saw how creating jobs and opportunity was lifting up all Americans. These four pillars I’ve outlined are critical to reigniting our economic engine. As we continue to support our medical response to COVID-19, we must also look ahead and make plans to rebuild now. The USA RISE Plan offers solutions that grow our economy without unnecessarily growing the federal government. The goal is an economic revival where the government does not crowd out the private sector, and that its job-creation engine lifts up all Georgians.

U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., took office on January 6, 2020. She serves on the Senate Committee on Health, Education Labor and Pensions.

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