Missouri is back open for business. That’s great news for working families and business owners alike.
For more than two months, we were asked to stay at home, slow the spread, and help buy our healthcare workers precious time to fight back against this virus. We did that. We’ve dramatically ramped up COVID-19 testing, developed plans to contain and limit outbreaks, and helped our healthcare providers restock personal protective equipment including face shields, gowns, and N95 masks.
During that time, some 40 million Americans lost their jobs. The unemployment rate spiked to 14.7 percent, something we haven’t seen since the height of the Great Depression. Unlike the calamity of the 1930’s, this crisis hit overnight through a wave of stay-at-home and safe-at-home orders. There was absolutely nothing workers and businesses could have done to anticipate something like this. In Washington, we took unprecedented action to keep workers on payroll, temporarily extend unemployment benefits, and keep small businesses afloat. This mitigated some of the damage, but it was far from a permanent solution.
We got some unexpected good news earlier this month when we learned unemployment fell to 13.3 percent in May. That was far better than the predictions that it would hit a record high. While that was welcome news, a near-record number of Americans are still out of work.
The reality is that reopening our country is the only sustainable path forward. We cannot continue to run up record deficits for future generations to pay off and American workers must be able to return to work and provide for their families. These shutdowns were never capable of defeating this virus. They were only intended to buy us time to fight back.
We must remember that COVID-19 is still out there. We are still in the midst of a global pandemic. We must continue working our level best to maintain social distancing and hand washing practices while we reboot the American economy. Rebuilding our country while we fight this virus will not be easy, but together we can and will get the job done.