1. Opinion

Florida is on the right track to reopening the economy | Column

“Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' approach of Safe. Smart. Step by Step is proving to be the right way to re-open the economy,” writes Alex Sanchez, president and CEO of the Florida Bankers Association.

Our country and our world face a crisis like one we have never seen. Unlike after the 9/11 attacks — the anniversary of which just passed — COVID-19 is not an enemy we can hunt down with our brave military men and women. But, as we have experienced from other crises — World War I and II, 9/11, the killing of Osama bin Laden — our country will win and beat any enemy.

Alex Sanchez, president and CEO of Florida Bankers Association [ Courtesy of Alex Sanchez ]

The re-opening of our economy has not been easy, but it is being done right in most states. Of course, things change, but as we gather more knowledge on this virus, I believe we can combat it and not have to close our economy.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' approach of Safe. Smart. Step by Step is proving to be the right way to re-open the economy. I thank the governor for his leadership as he has been driven and focused on medical data and helping Florida families with jobs. It’s not all about the economy for him, as parts of Florida as of this writing, are still under phase 1, the most stringent requirements; none are under phase 3.

The U.S. gained 1.4 million jobs in August, the fourth consecutive month of job gains that came as more state and local economies reopened. The unemployment rate dropped out of double digits to 8.4 percent. Our nation is on its way to returning to the record unemployment numbers we had before the pandemic. A record 10.6 million jobs have been gained since April, bringing back about 50 percent of the jobs lost from the lockdowns. Are we out of the woods yet? No, we have much more to do to beat the COVID-19 virus and regain our economic strength, but we are getting there. Several vaccines are in the last stages of testing by well-known companies here in the United States and by close allies in countries including the United Kingdom.

To help more Americans regain their jobs, we need other states to re-open their economies while remaining vigilant in fighting the pandemic. States like California and New York, in the latest figures, have unemployment rates of 16.4 percent and 15.3 percent respectively. (Florida was at 11.3 percent.) Small businesses are suffering in those two states as the political leadership is keeping those economies closed. Not all the blame goes to the mayors and governors. We all must help in the re-opening of the economies by heeding the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — practice social distancing, wear masks in crowded areas and where appropriate. The re-opening of any state economy cannot be limited to large big box retailers. Small businesses must be allowed to reopen too. Remember, over 50 percent of Americans work for small businesses and those owners have worked hard over many years to grow a business. They need our support now.

California and New York should see and watch how Governor DeSantis is doing it in Florida. It is not easy. It is easy to be a critic while sitting on the sidelines of any re-opening plan. But I think Florida, and our nation, are on the road back. Let’s re-open all state economies while combating this virus pandemic in a safe, smart and step by step way.

Alex Sanchez is president and CEO of the Florida Bankers Association. He was a member of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board from 2003-2010.