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Opening economy now, not later, best for Americans

By Rep. Bradley Byrne

Last week, Gov. Kay Ivey issued orders allowing Alabama’s restaurants, hair salons, barbers and other personal service businesses to reopen Monday under social distancing guidelines. This is an important step towards safely reopening our state’s economy and ending extreme measures put in place to flatten the curve and limit the spread of the virus. While Alabama – and our district – continue to see cases and sadly some deaths, we have been successful in preventing our hospitals and ICU units from being overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases—the original goal of social distancing and business shutdowns.

With our Alabama economy taking steps to open in line with the White House coronavirus task force recommendations, we still must use common sense, practice social distancing and good hygiene and limit certain types of gatherings. There are capacity limitations for open facilities such as restaurants, childcare centers, and public spaces like our beaches. And most entertainment venues, including movie theaters and bowling alleys, remain closed. 

On Monday, I spent the morning in Orange Beach with our local law enforcement and first responders. I was pleased to see that those taking advantage of the beautiful day on the beach were observing guidelines to limit gatherings and social distance.  While law enforcement was on hand to ensure compliance, it was encouraging that our citizens were taking steps on their own to remain safe and in compliance with the governor’s orders. I believe most Alabamians want to do the right thing and will take steps to be safe. At the end of the day, there is really little law enforcement can do to stop the spread. All of us must do our part.  

Here in the district, we continue to see federal aid distributed to individuals and small businesses. The Treasury Department continues to work down the unprecedented backlog to make economic impact payments to individuals. And while all payments have not been made as quickly as Congress hoped, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program and the Paycheck Protection Program are continuing to issue loans and grants to help small businesses in our district remain open and keep employees on the payroll. In addition, the Coronavirus Relief Fund, created through the CARES Act, will distribute around $1.9 billion directly to Alabama to alleviate damage from the coronavirus. 

While it has been good to see Congress act quickly in a substantive and bipartisan manner to aid Americans, we must be increasingly vigilant of efforts by those on the far left to use this crisis as an excuse to enact their radical agenda. Behind closed doors, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been working on another coronavirus aid package that, even according to Democrats, is more of a “wish list” than a serious legislative proposal. By many accounts, she is negotiating a messaging bill with the most liberal and “progressive” wing of her party, certainly not with Republicans. In short, she is not making an effort to produce a coronavirus aid bill that will become law but is instead working to lay down an extreme liberal negotiating point. This is no way to run a railroad. In fact, just last week, I wrote in the Wall Street Journal about the need for Pelosi to stop negotiating alone and allow Congress to return to Washington and get back to work for the American people. While I continue working hard from the district to help constituents, talking daily with leaders throughout our community, representatives from both sides of the aisle should reject Speaker Pelosi’s power grab and demand we return to Washington to ensure all our constituents have a voice at the negotiating table. 

However, government can never replace the American economy. The best thing we can do for the American people is to begin safely reopening the economy now, not later. I am glad we have started doing that in our state, and I am hopeful we will soon be able to do more to safely return Alabamians to work, school and church, and for more of our businesses to open their doors.