We are living in an unprecedented time fighting a temporary, invisible enemy. There is no handbook to guide us through a health pandemic bringing death and economic disaster to all parts of the world. Social distancing and the closure of non-essential businesses has helped flatten the curve but with that has come the greatest economic challenge since the Great Depression. The response to save Oklahoma’s economy needs to be quick and aggressive or our state will suffer the repercussions for decades to come. The survival of Oklahoma’s people and economy is contingent on unhindered action by all.
The State Chamber’s Research Foundation through its OK2030 initiative has collaborated with economists and the business community to develop Oklahoma’s Comeback plan, a multi-phase endeavor with policy recommendations to address the immediate, short-term and long-term challenges Oklahoma will face during its economic bounce back.
Oklahoma’s survival will depend on proactive policy now versus reaction later. The first phase focuses on quickly stabilizing the economy and preventing businesses from closing permanently, including:
The State Chamber worked with the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (OESC) to waive benefit wage charges for unemployment benefits directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Waiving these charges prevents businesses from being penalized for layoffs caused by the pandemic and will free up funds to hire workers back after this is over.
Deferring tax deadlines and fees for businesses for the next 90 days will allow for faster recovery by keeping scarce revenue in the hands of business so it can flow back into the economy and our state coffers. Businesses need cash now.
Existing asset pools have access barriers that should be removed during this crisis to assist with economic recovery. Temporarily alleviating these obstacles will help businesses that lack existing cash, or don’t meet criteria to apply for federal assistance, a chance to rebound after the crisis.
Passing reforms to ensure those providing essential services during the pandemic are insulated from lawsuits. This state knows disaster and is never slow to respond with what has become known as the Oklahoma standard. Manufacturers are converting facilities to produce needed supplies and Oklahoman’s across industry sectors are risking their health to deliver healthcare and essential services. Let’s not pay them back with a lawsuit.
These are extremely necessary measures that will position Oklahoma for economic recovery. Oklahomans have grit and a pioneering spirt. Oklahoma will come back.
Note: This article was first published in The Journal Record on April 10, 2020.