In continuing with their previous deregulatory actions to aid small businesses in their time of need, the Trump Administration has announced that they will continue expanding the scope of these actions. Though the Administration has been tight lipped as to the content of the new rules, it is positive to see the Administration building upon its successes. More importantly, the Administration has indicated that they will also be seeking to make several of the more significant temporary rollbacks permanent. They have yet to announce which particular rules will be extended, but they certainly have plenty of great options.
One of the most significant impediments to our early response to the COVID-19 virus was the stringent regulatory regime that had been growing for the past few decades. There is plenty of blame to go around for the creation of this behemoth. Fortunately, the Trump Administration has recognized the degree to which obsolete rules from the FDA, CDC, NIH, and other agencies prevented our healthcare industry from being able to respond. Having temporarily expanded important areas that had been neglected, like telehealth and bottleneck testing, the Administration has seen massive success with its regulatory rollbacks in healthcare. As such, they are already working to make a number of these new regulations permanent.
In the last few months, the use of telehealth services has jumped from a few dozen to over 15,000, based on a seven day moving average. These services are allowing our most vulnerable populations to receive healthcare services from the safety and comfort of their own homes. Especially now, these services are absolutely essential to an efficient and safe healthcare system. Having been all but ignored prior to COVID-19, the Trump Administration has recognized the importance of these services and plans to make these changes permanent in the coming months.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman, Ajit Pai, determined to lead by example rather than through force. Instead of forcing internet providers and applications services to bend to a centralized plan by the commission to ensure service continue unabated, Pai did the opposite. He went to the leaders of more than 700 broadband and telephone service providers and presented them with the option of signing on to a pledge. This pledge asked service providers not to terminate services for individuals and small businesses, not to levy late fees during the crisis, and to open their wifi hotspots to the whole of the public, not just their customers. To date, these service providers have kept to their word, providing service to millions of Americans. The significance of Pai’s action is that, as during other times of crisis, corporations are Americans too and often want to do what they can to help. Calling on the power of these private firms through a voluntary pledge is far more efficient, and far more effective, that forcing these companies to do the bidding of the FCC.
You read that right. After nearly three months, several states, including Texas, Ohio, and Illinois have decided to begin the long process of reopening the economy. Starting next week, in some states, small businesses will be allowed to begin opening under strict conditions to protect public safety. Seeing as the worst possible situation would be to open up and see a massive spike in infection, these first few states are justifiably playing it safe. In Texas, although stores, movie theaters, and restaurants are allowed to open, they can serve 25 percent of their occupancy to aid social distancing. Places that require close contact, like hair salons and tattoo parlors, must remain closed for the time being, but outdoor recreational activities that are perfect for social distancing, like golf and tennis, will be allowed to resume. Because Texas has experienced patchwork infection rates across the state, Gov. Greg Abbott also decided that, in less populated counties with five or fewer confirmed cases, businesses will be allowed to open at 50 percent capacity. Texas’ approach — cautious but not fearful — should serve as a model for other states as they choose to open.
Just as the Trump Administration is looking to build on their success by making temporary rollbacks permanent, states across the country are doing the same. In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott is looking to capitalize on a successful boon for bars and restaurants. Early on in the crisis, Gov. Abbott suspended regulations that had prevented the delivery of alcohol. Seeing how much this minor change has helped small businesses during the crisis, Gov. Abbott has indicated that he will be asking the Texas State Legislature to make the changes permanent in the coming legislative session.