Holly Schroeder | L.A. County Must Move Forward

SCV Voices: Guest Commentary
SCV Voices: Guest Commentary

Today, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors will consider two motions initiating planning both to safely reopen businesses and the broader economy, and to quickly establish prerequisites and protocols for doing so in partnership with affected industries.

Already, hundreds of thousands of L.A. County residents have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 crisis, but this is just the “tip of the iceberg.” Unemployment in the Los Angeles-Anaheim metropolitan statistical area (MSA) has the potential to reach an estimated 31.4%, according to a recent analysis by our partners at the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp. This level of unemployment has not been experienced in modern times, and it requires the full and urgent attention of the county Board of Supervisors.

Above all, the county should act quickly to establish clear, seamless, uniform protocols that don’t differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction within the county, and enable businesses to safely re-employ workers and place L.A. County’s economy and workforce on the road to recovery, reinvention, resilience and resurgence.

The county intends to form an L.A. County Economic Resiliency Task Force with leaders from business, labor, government and education communities to develop actionable recommendations for the county to improve the economy, create jobs and return to full employment. This task force should include representatives from L.A. County’s most negatively affected sectors, such as accommodation and food services, retail trade, arts, entertainment and recreation, health care, manufacturing, wholesale trade and logistics, and any number of service-based sectors to establish the protocols and prerequisites for getting county residents back to work safely and as quickly as possible. The county should, based on recommendations of this task force, move in progressive steps.

1. Reopening the Economy and Getting Residents Back to Work.

The reopening phase should identify near-term steps that can be taken, in a phased approach, to safely open businesses that have been closed. These steps should include establishing best practices for health criteria, social distancing and related operational and sanitation protocols. These practices and protocols should inform the progressive reopening of businesses that adhere to them.

The reopening of businesses should be prioritized by the sectors that can most easily adhere to the protocols, those that employ individuals hardest hit by the crisis, and those that have large multiplier effects that can stimulate the economy. Time frames for opening successive waves based on successful implementation of health and safety protocols will allow other businesses to prepare. The county should also take advantage of businesses that are expanding or are positioned to expand, such as those producing personal protective equipment or increasing broadband availability.

2. Accelerate Jobs Recovery.

The jobs recovery phase should add ongoing measures that increase consumer confidence and expand inclusive growth across the county, while ensuring that new health risks do not jeopardize reopenings that have occurred. The county needs to establish criteria that businesses can follow for testing, tracking and tracing, including what information to report that facilitates identification of hot spots or coronavirus outbreaks. The county should also address considerations to restore public confidence to go out, shop, dine, and conduct commerce and establish an inventory procedure for ensuring an ongoing supply of PPE-related assets.

3. Engendering Economic Reinvention, Resilience and Resurgence.

Post-crisis, L.A. County must begin to rethink and reinvest in its economy to be more inclusive and resilient. L.A. County is in a position to leverage the lessons and trends emerging from the crisis, such as re-shoring of manufacturing, supply chain security and work-at-home practices. The county should develop incentives for commercial-stage biopharmaceutical and medical device companies to locate in L.A. County in order to de-risk future supply chain disruptions, especially companies seeking to move production from overseas. It should lever its tremendous purchasing power as it replenishes its strategic reserves of PPE and related equipment, and should use its prominent ports to position itself as the safest, most secure location for goods movement.

I want to applaud the Board of Supervisors for its planned actions to respond to the economic crisis. I hope they will act with the same urgency they took in addressing the health crisis of COVID-19 to now respond to the emerging economic crisis facing its residents.

Holly Schroeder is the president and CEO of the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corp.

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