Today, the Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO) released the following recommendations for governments and schools to adopt to safely return to normal during the COVID-19 crisis. These recommendations come on the heels of President Trump’s announcement that states should begin reopening the economy at their own pace beginning May 1st. GCO will be releasing further recommendations in the near future.
1. Establish a Georgia Task Force on the Economy and Education
We encourage state leaders to put together a task force on reopening the economy. This task force will invite business leaders to submit industry-specific guidelines on how they will operate safely in a restrictive environment until the threat is over, such as when a vaccine is found. These business leaders will receive guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Georgia’s Commissioner of Public Health. Gov. Kemp can then use these guidelines to loosen restrictions in a safe manner. In addition, GCO recommends that the governor consider modifications to his shelter-in-place order to allow people to shop, a vital step for businesses to rebound successfully.
Second, we recommend another task force providing advice to families and school districts on facilitating remote learning. This task force should also create a plan and timetable for the safe return to brick-and-mortar schools in a restrictive environment. We also recommend that school systems develop a plan to ensure students are caught up on schoolwork they might have missed. Additionally, school systems should prepare for COVID-19 outbreaks during the 2020-2021 school year and be ready to return to remote learning when and if that occurs, including a plan to assist students with limited internet access and limited access to appropriate technology.
2. Tap Into Civil Society Resources
Now is the time for civil society to work with the government to plan out the reopening of our economy. Workers are being hurt because of forced closures, and we must focus particularly on individuals in vulnerable sectors of our society who could be working now but are unable. Our small businesses are hurting, too. A recent survey by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reported that one-in-four small businesses are on the brink of closure and half are considering a temporary shutdown.
In this environment, civil society is more important than ever through nonprofits, community organizations, and churches. We recommend the state of Georgia tap into these resources through coalitions such as GCO’s Hiring Well, Doing Good initiative that matches local businesses with workers.
3. Work with Neighboring States
We are seeing positive examples of other states forming regional coalitions to fight the coronavirus. The Georgia government should consider working with neighboring states. For example, the Port of Savannah is close to the South Carolina border, and many people work at the Port and live in the Palmetto State. It would make sense for these two state governments to coordinate reopening this area at the same time.
Quote from GCO President and CEO Randy Hicks
“We are in unprecedented times, and we recognize the suffering from those affected directly by the disease, but also by those impacted by the mass closure of our economy, schools, and way of life. The time has come to create actionable items for reopening Georgia. No recovery plan is without risk, but we must weigh the risk and rely on health and business professionals to do so. Now is the time for everyone to come together to explore solutions that protect our neighborhoods and respond to community needs.”