I’ve written a great deal about the critical need for leaders to proactively combat the rapid spread of misinformation during a crisis, particularly one of the epic proportions we’re now experiencing. As the global pandemic has taken hold, I’ve found myself a keen observer of both the information coming out around it and the response to it. I recently shared with my wife the sheer complexity of dealing with our current situation logistically on every level and the confusion this has had a tendency to create with the general public. With a multitude of varying emergency orders issued by state and local governments alone, I’ve found it to be a case where average citizens and local businesses are not quite clear with what and whose rules they need to adhere to. With this in mind, I’m hopeful that this blog will help to provide some valuable perspective with regards to the overall complexity of the situation.
Here in Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has announced a gradual easing of restrictions on his Shelter-in-Place Order originally issued on April 2nd. The lifting of restrictions began on April 24th and included gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, body art studios, barbers, cosmetology hair design, esthetics, nail care schools, and massage therapists. On April 27th restrictions were lifted on theaters, private social clubs, and restaurant dine-in services. The timing on the lifting of restrictions by any governor is open to debate which I’m certain will be ongoing in the months ahead. However, one observation I would like to make is that businesses returning to some sort of new normal will ultimately be consumer-driven as we all begin to derive a comfort level with any degree of public interaction which we deem to be safe for ourselves and our families.
I was discussing this line of thought with a local retail business owner recently who clearly stated that the reopening of her physical locations will depend on her client’s level of comfort with in-store shopping. As an avid fitness enthusiast, I would love nothing more than to head to my chosen gym for a good workout after more than a month away but admittedly I’m not ready to go back quite yet. I also love movies and would welcome a little escapism at this point as I know we all would. However, sitting in a movie theater and hearing someone sneeze in the dark would definitely cause me concern, warranted or not. Ultimately, we each have choices to make with regards to when we feel comfortable with public interactions and to what degree, but I use these examples to underscore the fact that in reality consumer confidence is something which simply can’t be legislated.
I’ll use a real-world example to illustrate another level of complexity as it pertains to the federal government’s response to address our struggling economy. In 2009 while serving as mayor, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRCA) was approved to address our nation’s economic meltdown and subsequent Great Recession. The spending bill generated $831 billion in funding which is dwarfed by the $2.2 trillion in funding generated by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). I am in no way a trained economist, but I can speak directly to having had the experience of accessing and implementing the ARRCA funds from a local government perspective. One thing I learned early on is that it’s literally impossible for the federal government to develop comprehensive rules and regulations regarding the implementation of funding packages this massive while appropriating the funds in such an expeditious manner. Simply put, my firsthand experience was that our federal system simply isn’t designed for cash infusions this large and I fully expect there will be some difficulties distributing these funds due to this simple fact.
Realistically, opening back up our economy and returning to societal norms will not happen with the flip of a switch and is not under the purveyance of any one governmental entity. In a scenario so complex with an overwhelming global impact, our emergence from this pandemic will simply take time and patience the likes of which most of us have never had to call on in what has become a vastly impatient society. I have no doubt at all that we will all get through this together as stories of the triumph of the human spirit in communities worldwide grow exponentially every day. I honestly believe that the shared experience of going through this as one global community gives us all a common ground to rally around and that we, as a society, will ultimately emerge stronger for it. I hope that this blog provides some perspective which each of you may find useful and please know I consider myself truly blessed to have a platform to communicate with you all on a regular basis.