As Utah’s business community, you know first-hand the costs associated with COVID-19, both medically and economically. I cannot preach anything to you that you do not already know.
Congress has enacted four coronavirus response bills in the past seven weeks, each bigger than the last, to inject stability into our economy. Between the four, financing was provided to business, checks were written to Americans (a dangerous precedent), testing was expanded, sick leave policy flexibility was amended, and more. In total, more than 400 pages of legislation impacting every corner of our lives has been implemented. Most has been on target—the Kennedy Center special interest carveout being a glaring exception— but we must not trick ourselves into believing that it has been perfect. The mega spending bills have passed under a procedural quirk that allows for minimal debate and expedited consideration.
Legislating by crisis is dangerous. It is said Congress does two things well – nothing and over-reaction. We saw the nothing phase when the Paycheck Protection Program was initially insufficiently funded and then held hostage, which delayed funding to business leaders. That was unacceptable.
We may now be moving into the over-reaction phase. Many of my peers are talking about a new package to include all sorts of special interest funding for issues not related to the effects of the virus. Just this week, House Democrats rolled out a 1,600-page bill that no one will read. Some want the national government to bail out mismanaged state programs. All the money we spend comes from the taxpayers. I am not in favor of financing New Jersey’s incompetence on the backs of Utah taxpayers.
While the CARES Act included funding for state and local governments, the formula channeled the bulk of funding to states like California, New York, and New Jersey. Utah, meanwhile, received just a fraction of the funds that were disbursed to other states.
The next bills, if done properly, must meet the needs of all state and local governments, which are as different as this nation is diverse.
States must make disbursement decisions once they receive these funds as well. Support funds are best administered at the most local level possible, where dedicated public servants best know the unique circumstances of their business communities.
It is critically important that future coronavirus response bills not be taken over by special interests. While we certainly have our work cut out for ourselves, we must not reward bad management practices.