We need to focus now on how to get Texans back to work

Each morning, we wake to the grim news that more of our fellow Texans have succumbed to the coronavirus, and even more have been diagnosed.

As I write this, more than 700,000 Texans are expected to file for unemployment, and one out of four small businesses surveyed by the U.S. Chamber have said they are one month away from remaining shuttered once the crisis is over. Even the mightiest Texas industries such as energy, retail, and manufacturing have been brought to their knees.

At the same time, respected economists have made dire predictions about the pandemic’s effects on the state coffers – a gap of $10-20 billion dollars is anticipated just when Texans need the help most. The Texas and the American economies have been hit really hard.

That is why I am respectfully suggesting that Governor Abbott appoint an Economic Recovery Task Force — a bipartisan group of civic and business leaders representing all segments of the Texas economy. This collection of Texas’ top talent should come together with one focus in mind: how to get Texans back to work. There is no American recovery without a Texas recovery, and Texas can lead the way if we act quickly.

The governor’s task force would consider how policies that have guided Texas through decades of economic growth need to be modified to create a path out of this crisis, while working to focus on areas of greatest need and a phased in “back-to-work” plan. Wherever it makes sense, they can also make recommendations that create sensible consistency among city and county governments.

Our state needs its own economic recovery task force to take a statewide perspective and engage leading academics and universities to support its work. Without a sound plan for spending limited state resources and the additional federal funding coming our way, too many families, small businesses, local governments and others will be left to fend for themselves. We need a strategic plan now.

Texas 2036 – the organization I founded and chair – was created to provide a road map of policy initiatives that will propel Texas forward over the next 16 years. Our work has focused, in part, on factors that an economic recovery plan will need to look at, including how well our state’s education, health, workforce, infrastructure and government perform. We stand ready to help the governor’s task force with data and policy.

Texas has done this kind of planning before – with hurricanes, droughts and other downturns – but this challenge is unique in its widespread, far-reaching and unpredictable impacts on all aspects of our economy. Unfortunately, with COVID-19, there may never be an “all clear” siren — Texas may likely emerge from this crisis piece-bypiece over the next year, with some areas and industries beginning to recover and others not so quickly.

But if we wait to see how this crisis ends before we move forward with a task force committed to getting Texas back to work, we will be too late.

By taking this action now, the governor could lead the way in Texas getting ahead of the curve and help lay the foundation for Texans to smartly get back to work and reenergize our economy. Luce, a longtime Texas civic leader, is founder and chairman of Texas 2036.