The coronavirus pandemic has rocked communities and businesses nationwide. While we may be starting to slowly return to normal, normal may never return for those who were forced to wait for help for too long.
On March 24, Governor Carney implemented a mandatory stay at home order, forcing businesses statewide to shut down indefinitely. Many business owners wanted to understand what measures the Governor used to determine if an operation was “essential” but never received an answer.
Transparency has been a glaring issue and missing piece from the policy decisions surrounding COVID-19. It is difficult to hold a government accountable if the people are unaware of or do not understand the decisions being made.
Unfortunately, this is not a new problem in the First State.
In the A Better Delaware October 2019 blog, Transparency and accountability: the “Delaware Way” can do better, it feels as if we peered through the looking glass to this situation:
“Delaware state government tends to minimize or even diminish the role of the citizen in decision-making, to the detriment of its constituency. Without transparency and accountability to influence better decisions, our officials are free to pass legislation to their own benefit, instead of that of its people.”
As federal CARES Act money makes it way to the states, with Delaware set to receive $1.25 billion, transparency is more crucial than ever as livelihoods hang in the balance. Taxpayers deserve to know how their money will be spent—and if it will benefit them.
Other states, like Vermont and Alaska have all announced plans to use part of the CARES money to help their own struggling businesses. Two weeks ago, Alaska announced that $290 million of the funds would go to help small businesses and nonprofits, as well as offering aid in the form of grants instead of loans.
Vermont Governor Phil Scott recently announced a $400 million economic relief and recovery package funded by the $1.25 billion the state received from the Federal CARES Act: $310 million for immediate emergency relief to the most impacted sectors and businesses, and $90 million in long-term recovery investments.
If other states’ leaders can work with businesses and business groups to forge a path for small businesses and nonprofits to get back on their feet, Delaware can too.
On May 6, Delaware business leaders authored a letter to Governor Carney requesting the opportunity to inform reopening decisions. Shortly after, the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce and the Small Business Chamber spoke out about recovery and the Governor’s action, or lack thereof.
Open lines of communications with informed parties and with the public are both necessary to move forward. Only businesses know what businesses need right now.
As our leaders work to parcel the federal aid how they see fit, the opportunity for a new era of transparency in Delaware state government is now.