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Economic expert says infrastructure should be part of next stimulus bill

Economic expert: Infrastructure should be part of next stimulus bill
Economic expert: Infrastructure should be part of next stimulus bill
Economic expert: Infrastructure should be part of next stimulus bill
Posted at 12:47 PM, May 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-22 17:03:58-04

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Even as many states start to reopen for business, the pain of the country’s economic downturn can be felt from coast to coast.

"All I can do is get back to work and hope that they'll come,” said Benjamin Whitmore, who works as a barber, in a business that until recently was closed because it was considered non-essential.

On Capitol Hill, the latest effort to bring more financial relief to America comes in the form of the $3 trillion “HEROES Act.” The House passed the measure last week, but it’s all but certain to go nowhere in the Senate.

So, what’s a government to do?

“When we think about government expenditures, we want to think about spending money efficiently, the right way,” said Jim Angel, a finance professor at Georgetown University, who has been monitoring the government’s coronavirus-related stimulus bills.

The HEROES Act is the fifth such bill and would include an additional $1,200 stimulus payment to all eligible individuals, as well as $1.08 trillion to help cash strapped local and state governments.

If it becomes law, it would be the largest economic stimulus bill ever in American history.

“It will take time for this shock to work its way through the economy and for the unemployment to go away,” Angel said.

That is why, he argues, the government needs to be more targeted in how it spends money in its stimulus bills. His answer: more public works or infrastructure programs, similar to those that sprung up in the 1930s, during the Great Depression.

“When people are unemployed, that is output that is lost forever,” Angel said. “So, the best thing to do is to use this as an opportunity for public works to fix our roads, our bridges, our parks and our infrastructure because that provides lasting benefit.”

Needless to say, it’s not the 1930s and not everyone is cut out for that kind of work. Yet, Angel said there’s more to infrastructure jobs than just construction.

“It isn't just using a shovel,” he said. “Don't forget, you need very expensive machine operators and also don't forget the engineers who have to design the roads and bridges and, of course, don't forget the five thousand lawyers to deal with all the litigation involved. So, there's plenty of work to be done here.”

It’s work that, for now, remains out of reach for tens of millions of Americans.

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Reopening Ohio
Gov. Mike DeWine and the State of Ohio have established a plan to begin reopening Ohio businesses starting May 1. Below is a timeline of the businesses allowed to reopen.

May 1: Medical care – non-essential surgeries and procedures that do not require an overnight stay will be allowed beginning May 1.
May 4: Manufacturing, distribution and construction businesses that were ordered to cease activities may reopen on May 4, as well as general office environments.
May 12: Retail establishments and facilities will be allowed to reopen on May 12.
May 15: Salons, barbershops, day spas, tanning facilities, massage parlors, tattoo parlors and piercing businesses. Restaurants will be allowed to serve patrons on outdoor patios. More details here.
May 21: Restaurants and bars will be allowed to reopen for dine-in service. Read more here. Campgrounds will be allowed to reopen. Read more here.
May 22: Horse racing will be allowed to resume, with no spectators. Casinos and Racinos are not included in the reopening. Read more here.
May 26: Gyms, fitness centers, regulated pools, recreation centers and studios will be allowed to reopen, with new requirements. Non-contact and limited-contact sports leagues, such as golf, baseball and tennis will be allowed to resume. BMVs across Ohio will reopen, but government officials encourage citizens to utilize the BMVs online services when possible. Read more here.
May 31: Day care centers will be able to reopen in Ohio. Read more about the plan to reopen day cares here. Day camps and summer camps will also be allowed to operate. Details on that here.

While these announced reopenings encompass the majority of the businesses, agencies and events closed and canceled by the state's orders, the governor has not yet made an annoucements on when K-12 schools in the state will reopen, nor when places of public amusement, such as theme parks, gambling businesses, skating rinks, movie theaters, and others will be allowed to reopen. See a full list of indoor and outdoor places that remain closed here.

Click here for more details on the state's "Responsible RestartOhio" plan.