Every day seems to bring more headline news about the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on our well-being. In the past several days alone, we’ve learned that the number of COVID-19 cases in Missouri has reached roughly 7,000 — with the death rate around 300. Recently released state data shows that the unemployment rate jumped from 3.5 percent in February to 4.5 percent in March — likely just a sliver of the full scope of the economic fallout. And this just last week, the White House released a framework to get the economy moving again.
So far, much of the response to this crisis has been, understandably, reactive. The Trump administration has laid the groundwork for states to battle this crisis, and Gov. Mike Parson has taken critical steps to protect Missouri residents’ health. Now it’s time for our legislative leaders to roll up their sleeves and pass meaningful, proactive reforms that will help put Missouri on the front end of a true recovery.
One of the biggest opportunities we have right now is in occupational licensing reform. Companies that have been deemed essential are in desperate need of workers, especially in health care. Not only should Missouri waive occupational licensing fees for the year, but any unnecessary barriers that block qualified workers from filling an essential role — including many unnecessary scopes of practice restrictions — should be removed. Restrictions, wait times, and large fees do nothing but slow down businesses in a crisis, keep patients and consumers from vital services, and restrict workers from earning a paycheck.