Louisiana Sets Up Commission to Reopen Economy and ‘Get Workers Back to Work’

April 16, 2020 Updated: April 16, 2020

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday that while life in the state would not fully return “back to normal” until a vaccine is found for COVID-19, he said he would not wait for that before reopening the economy.

“This is going to be a process that’s going to unfold over a number of weeks and months and so forth,” he said, adding, “we’re not going to get back to normal until we have a vaccine and some effective therapeutic treatments, but we’re not going to wait till then before we start to reopen the economy, get businesses back open, get workers back to work.”

Edwards said state authorities have developed a process for reopening, which involves setting up an advisory commission called Resilient Louisiana.

“COVID-19 represents a historic challenge to our ability to respond medically and save lives, but it also represents a tremendous challenge for Louisiana’s economy and the prosperity of each one of our residents,” Edwards said in a written statement. “For these reasons, we need a comprehensive game plan for creating a more resilient Louisiana.”

La. Gov. John Bel Edwards gives an update on the spread of CCP virus in the state of La., at GOHSEP in Baton Rouge, La, on Thursday, April 9, 2020, (Hilary Scheinuk/The Advocate via AP)
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards gives an update on the spread of CCP virus in the state of La., at GOHSEP in Baton Rouge, La, on April 9, 2020, (Hilary Scheinuk/The Advocate via AP)

The 18-member panel will take the form of a state commission that will be tasked with “examining Louisiana’s economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic and making recommendations for more resilient business-related activities and commerce in the coming months.” It will include Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser and will be co-chaired by Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson.

“I look forward to serving on this commission to find the best possible return of our economy,” Nungesser said. “We have been tested as a state before with hurricanes, floods and the 2010 oil spill, and we have always shown our resilience in our ability to come back stronger. If anyone is able to bounce back from this COVID-19 crisis, it’s Louisianans.”

The commission will be charged with strengthening specific sectors of the state’s economy, including education, energy, health care, manufacturing, and tourism.

“Our commission’s task to build a more resilient Louisiana will take a deep dive into all aspects of our economy, how sectors have been impacted and how we can safely re-energize them for long-term success in an uncertain future,” commission co-chair Pierson said.

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A COVID-19 themed artwork is seen on a wall in the lower ninth ward in New Orleans, Louisiana, on April 03, 2020. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

It will also work on developing strategies to make communities more resilient in the face of future health care threats and other risks.

“We all recognize that COVID-19 brings a unique and different kind of threat, and we will work as a team to create the very best practices for moving forward today and for building resiliency tomorrow,” Pierson said.

Pressure has been building to reopen the economy as roughly 95 percent of the U.S. population is now under stay-at-home orders, and many factories, restaurants, stores, and other businesses are closed or have seen sales shrivel.

“My anxiety is through the roof right now, not knowing what’s going to happen,” said Laura Wieder, who was laid off from her job managing a now-closed sports bar in Bellefontaine, Ohio.

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Robert Harrison, 96, arrives to vote while wearing a mask to prevent exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19, in Hamilton, Ohio on March 12, 2020. (Bryan Woolston/Reuters)

In a stark illustration of how the virus-driven economic rout has hit America’s entrepreneurs, layoffs at small businesses with fewer than 49 employees jumped by 1,136 percent month-over-month, according to a recent payroll processing company report. And in today’s weekly jobless claims report, the Labor Department said more than 5 million U.S. workers filed for unemployment during the week ending April 11, bringing the seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate to a record high of 8.2 percent.

President Donald Trump, meanwhile, is set to unveil new federal guidelines Thursday for opening up the country to limit the economic fallout from the spread of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, commonly known as the novel coronavirus.

“It’s been a horrible time to see such death and destruction, especially when you come out of what was the greatest economy in the history of the world. The greatest. There’s never been an economy like what we had produced, but we’ll produce it again. And I think we’ll produce it again very fast,” Trump said at Wednesday’s COVID-19 briefing at the White House.

Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks about the CCP virus in the Rose Garden of the White House, on April 14, 2020. (Alex Brandon/AP Photo)

Trump said reopening would be staggered and take into account various states’ different situations regarding the outbreak.

“You already know we’ll be opening up states—some states much sooner than others. And we think some of the states can actually open up before the deadline of May 1st. And I think that that will be a very exciting time indeed,” Trump said.

Lifting restrictions put in place to contain the virus has been the subject of fierce debate both inside and outside the Trump administration, with tension between the need to save lives and the need for people to make a living.

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