As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact Louisiana, the response by the governor and the various boards of the state has been swift and far-reaching. The Pelican Institute appreciates their efforts to remove red tape in areas like telemedicine and delaying tax payments for hard-working Louisianans, which is critical in a time of economic crisis like this. And while we applaud these efforts, there is more to be done to remove government barriers and allow people to serve each other during this time.
The Pelican Institute believes actions should be taken by our state’s leaders and appropriate boards to develop policies that accomplish the following. To that end, we encourage the Governor and various boards to act quickly to:
- Allow for an Extra 30 days of Prescriptions: The government has already taken the correct step in allowing for prescriptions via telemedicine without a video connection. While this is an excellent step toward making telemedicine more effective, allowing for a longer prescription time would be especially helpful for our vulnerable elderly population who shouldn’t be leaving home right now.
- Remove Licensing Requirements so Competent Medical Professionals can Work: Streamlining and expediting Louisiana’s licensing processes is more important now than ever. The governor must continue to work with all the boards across the state to speed up the process. A process that normally takes months can be condensed into a few days by taking such measures as waiving fees and removing other needless hurdles. This will help ensure that anyone with the proper medical training can continue to serve those most in need.
- Work with the Department of Transportation to allow for Drone Delivery: Louisiana is in the unique position of having laws on the books that allow for the leasing of airspace to drone companies. The governor should direct the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development to develop emergency rules for the transportation of crucial medical equipment and tests. These drones can deliver these crucial goods in a faster time, while also protecting human health and safety. We should also look to develop rules to allow for the delivery of consumer goods, which would also lessen the spread of COVID-19.
- Waive Right of Way Fees and Speed Up Application Time for Broadband Deployment: Louisianans are seeing the importance of having a virtually connected state more than ever before. Activities like online learning, working from home, and telemedicine all depend on having a connected population. With schools and libraries closing, many people are losing the ability to access these crucial online services. The governor should direct the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development to waive any state fees regarding right of ways and speed up the broadband deployment application time as much as possible
- Ensure Child Care is Fully Available: School closures are also leaving Louisiana professionals, including vital healthcare workers whom we need most in this crisis, without daycare for their children. The Department of Education has already taken good action in waiving fees, but it should work with the governor’s office to ensure no requirements get in the way of securing proper supervision for the children of those we are depending on.
As important as all of these steps are to ensure solutions to this crisis are unleashed and to make the best use of private sector resources, there are still many ways our state government can cause issues. The following is a list of actions Louisiana’s state leaders should avoid during the current crisis:
- Don’t Let Students go Three Months Without Any Instruction Time: Learning is important whether it’s in the classroom or at home. Various distance learning approaches, including online curriculum, have proven invaluable for students, parents, and teachers during this time. Losing almost a half-a-year of learning is something Louisiana students cannot afford.
- Don’t Suspend Government Transparency Requirements: When the government is moving fast, some requirements can fall by the wayside. But public confidence in our elected leaders remains crucial. Without transparency, people often don’t know who to trust. Keeping the public informed is a core responsibility of the government.
- Don’t Create More Red Tape: As we have seen, a number of regulations needed to be waived to effectively deal with this crisis in Louisiana. It’s tempting to put in place more regulations out of fear of safety, but they are likely to do more harm than good during this time.
- Work with the Private Sector, Don’t Supplant it: The private sector has stepped up in a major way in dealing with COVID-19. Whether it’s making sure shelves are stocked, new medical supplies are created or simply making sure everyone’s internet continues to work. Rather than attempting to take over where the private sector has succeeded, the government should be commending these efforts and make sure regulatory barriers aren’t in the way.
- Don’t Focus on “Price Gouging”: Everyone is rightfully concerned about having supplies at this time. But the private sector has proven more than up to the task of making sure people have the essentials they need to go about their daily lives. While stories of higher prices may grab headlines, prices have remained affordable overall and the private sector continues to ramp up production.
- Don’t Make Permanent Changes to Unemployment Eligibility: We understand that many of our friends, families and neighbors are struggling through no fault of their own, which is why the government loosened regulations on unemployment. But permanent or long-term changes to the unemployment program only serve to increase taxes on employers who are reeling from the loss of revenues to their business.
Once we get through this crisis, everyone in our state will have to come together to find bold, creative solutions to get Louisianans back to work as quickly as possible. We can and will do this, but in the meantime, our government should look to these “Dos and Don’ts” as a roadmap for navigating the current situation.