Braun: Businesses must be reopened in smart way



The world as we knew it has changed.

And some of those changes may stay in place for a while.

“For government leaders, for individuals, for businesses, we are going to have a new normal,” U.S. Sen. Mike Braun of Jasper said. “This is a very challenging and tricky virus that we’re up against. We have to wait on therapies to be perfected; we’re gonna need to wait on a vaccine.”

The country has been waiting and adhering, for the most part, to strict health guidelines since March. Soon, it will be time to start getting the economy going again, Braun said.

“The quicker we can get back to reopening businesses in a smart way and getting people back to work,” he said, “that’s what’s going to bring us out of this, but also realizing that we need to stay disciplined.”

Braun explained that President Donald Trump’s plan for reopening the economy is more so a guideline for states to use if needed.

“He was just laying out a framework for how the federal government would view the different thresholds and ways that you can start reopening the economy,” Braun said. “That’s phase one, two and three. And you can get closer to normal the more you progress on reaching certain numbers of cases that are decreasing each day, and also that you’re practicing the guidelines that we’ve all done a really good job at here locally. Not all places have been fortunate.

“I’ve all along said that the most difficult part of the whole journey is how we do a smart restart to the economy.”

That decision will be up to each governor, Braun said. Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb is expected to announced changes to an expiring stay-at-home order today.

“I think a lot of businesses are disciplined and ready to pay attention to the new normal, to make sure their employees and their customers stay safe,” Braun said. “We’re going to see that [reopening] start happening across the country, and that will be state by state. It’ll be county by county, ideally, within each state. Because some places are going to take longer than others.”

Congress approved $370 billion in loan funding last week, with $60 billion “targeting the smaller of the small businesses,” Braun said. A lot of the overall funding will be directed to go through community banks, instead of the large banks. “So it would ideally reach the smaller businesses,” he said.

The last funding for small business loans, $349 billion, was used up quickly; and it was discovered that some bigger businesses got loans. Some of those companies have returned the loans.

When asked, Braun said that he would not be eligible for any of the loans since he is a senator. And he’s fine with that.

“We’ll manage through,” he said of Meyer Distributing, the business he owns in Jasper. ”Business fell off a decent amount. But some other competitors had to lay people off and do things, and business kind of gets shoved around. The trucking and the automotive distribution that we do has actually not been impacted, for whatever reason, as much as some other areas of the economy.

“But that’ll be different for every business,” he said. “I’m mostly worried about the small, main street businesses.”

Braun and his fellow Republican senators discussed the idea of more stimulus funding for individuals late last week via telephone. All members of Congress are currently working from their homes.

“I don’t think anything will happen until we’re back in [Washington], D.C. And that is tentatively scheduled to be May 4,” he said. “There will be some discussion of correcting any errors or omissions. But whether we do anything beyond what we’ve currently done is not yet decided.”

There will be a focus on supporting states in their efforts to reopen. “There’s gonna be a lot of effort and attention paid to helping and encouraging the governors across the country to do a smart restart of the economy,” Braun said, “based upon what they see as the lay of the land in their own states.”

He thinks that states should make that decision county by county. “In places like Dubois County, we’ve done such a good job paying attention to the rules,” Braun said. “Most businesses are definitely wanting to be very cautious when you do reopen because they don’t want any employees or customers to get sick.”

As for Braun, he has been home, safe and healthy, since March 26.

“I can tell you, my backyard looks better than I’ve ever had,” he said. “I pick weeds and prune trees and get back to my forestry activities. I get up early and get back in and then I’m on the phone nonstop most of the late morning early evening, and then call it a day. It’s my new routine.”

Braun encourages everyone to still follow the health guidelines that are in place for our safety.

“We all know the guidelines. Stick with them,” he said. “Don’t backslide, because that’s the key to get rid of this kind of national anxiety that we’re in.
“Everything we’ve learned, don’t backslide with it.”

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