Economists assert that the US economic recovery is heavily reliant on a prompt federal response to the pandemic in a swift manner.

The public health emergency has officially ended, and policies that helped the US recover from the economic fallout of the pandemic have been lifted. Although COVID-19 remains a public health threat, the national economic crisis caused by it has subsided, and the US economy has returned to its pre-pandemic growth rate. The federal response to mass unemployment and business closures through legislation, such as the CARES Act, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, and the American Relief Plan Act, has accelerated the recovery, according to economists. However, the lasting impact of the pandemic on the workforce and how prepared policymakers are for potential recessions and new pandemics remain unclear.

Policies that helped the economy recover from the impact of the pandemic could have reached more vulnerable populations, such as health care workers who are still experiencing its effects. Economists do not yet understand potential long-term implications, such as the impact of COVID-19 on the workforce, whether remote work will continue, and its impact on the economy. Nevertheless, lessons learned from the federal response to the pandemic could help prepare for future recessions and new pandemics, according to Lindsay Owens, Executive Director of Groundwork Collaborative.

The pandemic has had a profound impact on the workforce, particularly in specific sectors and industries. Public sector employment, like healthcare and education, has suffered significantly, and low wages for “frontline” or “essential” workers should be addressed before the next pandemic. It will take time to understand fully how COVID-19 will affect the workforce, according to economists.

Looking ahead, policies should address supply chain issues that emerged during the pandemic to build more resilience in the economy. Groundwork Collaborative’s Owens suggests that greater workplace flexibility could be better for retaining women in the workforce, who were disproportionately affected by pandemic-related job loss. Furthermore, policies like unemployment insurance, SNAP, and Medicaid should work quickly to cover as many people as possible in any recession, as “a matter of course.”

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