American voters came out in force and elected pro-business leaders on both sides of the aisle last week, including hundreds of local and national candidates endorsed by the United States Chamber of Commerce.
Now, the chamber is calling on those still in power and those about to take power to immediately move forward on two top priorities to help America fully recover from the pandemic.
“This is a pivotal time for our country, our economy, and for generations of Americans. We not only face the tremendous burden of overcoming a pandemic and recession, but also a historic moment to unleash a new era of inclusive growth, widespread opportunity, and boundless innovation,” Chamber CEO Thomas Donohue said Monday.
Chamber congratulates president-elect Biden, calls for quick action
After the results of the presidential election became apparent, CEO Donohue quickly congratulated Democrat and President-elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris.
Now, is the time to move forward quickly together, he said.
“The U.S. Chamber stands ready to work with the Biden administration and leaders on both sides of the aisle to restore public health, revitalize our economy, and help rebuild American lives and communities,” Donohue said.
Top priorities for American businesses and workers in 2021
Now that the election is winding down, national lawmakers, regardless of whether they were reelected, must end the gridlock and act to help businesses and workers still struggling from the pandemic, chamber officials said.
On Monday, the Chamber listed two top priorities it is advocating for at the national level:
1. Pandemic relief for workers and businesses
The first order of business will be pandemic relief for workers and businesses still hurting from COVID-19 setbacks.
The nation still has 10 million fewer jobs than it did before the pandemic. The number of long-term unemployed Americans—those unemployed for 27 weeks or longer— continues to rise, hitting 2.6 million last week. Unemployment insurance will expire at the end of the year if Congress fails to act.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, 163,735 U.S. businesses have closed. Almost 60 percent, or 100,000, report being permanently closed.
In Arizona, the unemployment rate is 6.7 percent, compared to the nation’s 7.9 percent. But close to 200,000 residents remain jobless, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Based on input from members of all sizes across all industries as well as state and local chambers from every state and territory, the Chamber on Monday called on Congress to enact targeted and temporary measures in a phase 4 package that addresses six areas:
- COVID-19 testing and healthcare
- Liability protection against unwarranted coronavirus lawsuits
- Support for small and midsize employers
- Support for childcare and K-12 schools
- Unemployment and job training
- State and local pandemic assistance
“We have not yet beaten the coronavirus or achieved the economic recovery we all desire. Our leaders have wasted five months already. They can’t waste another three,” Chamber Executive Vice President and Chief Policy Officer Neil Bradley said Monday. “We urge our leaders on both sides of the aisle to find common ground, finish the work they started, and pass additional relief measures during the lame-duck session to help the businesses, industries, and workers who continue to suffer.”
2. A package to rebuild nation’s decaying infrastructure
Last year, the Chamber pushed for significant new investments in roads, bridges and broadband but was unable to see the legislation reach the finish line. How to pay for such investment was the main stumbling block.
Enacting an infrastructure modernization plan will ensure the nation’s long-term economic growth and competitiveness, the chamber said. It is recommending a three-prong plan:
Roads, Bridges, and Transit
- Enact changes to ensure that there is sufficient dedicated revenue to maintain the solvency of the Highway Trust Fund
- Enact a long-term infrastructure modernization bill that addresses highways, bridges, air and sea travel, rural areas, broadband, energy, and water
- Provide a toolkit of options for supplemental funding and financing of other critical infrastructure, including through public-private partnerships, dedicated user fees, and revolving loan programs
Permitting and Regulatory Reform
- Continue to streamline the federal permitting process, including the use of concurrent reviews and time limits for agency decisions
- Encourage similar permitting reforms at the state and local levels
- Oppose efforts to reregulate transportation industries
Infrastructure and Transportation Workforce
- Highlight workforce shortages in the infrastructure and transportation sectors and push for regulatory reforms and skills programs to address these shortages
The chamber is calling on citizens and businesses to contact their congressional members to act on these priorities.
Businesses, citizens must also do their part
U.S. Chamber President Suzanne Clark says businesses and citizens must also do their part and double down on efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19,
“Everything that businesses can do to instill confidence in their communities—that it’s okay to be out as long as your following these guidelines” will keep our economy open, she said. “Science is going to save us, but the role businesses have in getting us to the other side is really gigantic.”