The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic affected more than 180 countries. It also killed more than 1.99 million people. But much more than this, the pandemic’s impact on economies cannot be underscored enough. It closed down businesses and caused the loss of many jobs. All of these are forcing governments and their policymakers to respond immediately to the pandemic to help people who have been forced out of jobs and homes in the past year alone.
Direct Financial Help
In many Western nations, their governments’ ability to provide financial aid to their citizens enables the people to tide through things. They announced several fiscal measures. This includes tax breaks, deferred payroll charges, and unemployment insurance. Others also offered deferment of payment of utility bills and rent, and loans to small and big businesses. The direct injection of money into a financially-ailing citizenry allows them to survive the worst of the pandemic. Such policies are empowering them to look for better opportunities, move to the suburbs, and even open their own hopefully pandemic-proof businesses.
Retraining, Upskilling, and Reskilling
Workers who lost their jobs because of the pandemic might need an extra hand through government policies. Among others, these include a kind of reskilling and upskilling programs for those who have fallen into the tech gaps in the workforce. Mid-career workers who do not know how to do digital marketing will have a harder time finding jobs at a time when almost all businesses transitioned to eCommerce.
Students who cannot afford to go back to school anymore have to find employment opportunities to help their families. Where does that leave them? They have to take part in traineeship programs. Here, they will train in the industries they hope to join but at the same time, earn wages for their living expenses. Thanks to technology, it becomes possible for people to learn virtually. They can also join companies that require special skills they acquired from the training.
Some government support measures can feel discriminatory because of age, income, and capacity limits. But look closer and you might find other programs that are specifically made for you. College students, for example, can apply for an extension of their student loans. Measures to help people and companies should target specific industries. Governments should do their best to target all sectors with customized programs that will fit their needs and demands.
However, it is also important that in the aim to help different sectors, no one sector will have to shoulder the brunt of these policies. Excessive financial assistance to certain industries might strain the government’s coffers. When this happens, other sectors will fall victim to higher tax rates and less financial aid.
The pandemic forced many businesses to resort to work-from-home setups for their employees. The question is if the current infrastructure is ready for it. First-world countries like the United States, Canada, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, France, and many others have a strong infrastructure for a work-from-home setup. Other developing nations are not as lucky. Many far-flung areas still suffer from the lack of electricity and intermittent internet signal.
This problem is only exacerbated by the need for students to learn from home. Many students living in developing and underdeveloped nations barely have access to the technology they need for learning. This lack of access is forcing many to drop off from school. Governments should start building infrastructure that will address these problems now and in the future.
Continuity of Services
The disruption of services will harm people and communities. Governments should be at the help of ensuring that these services will continue despite the pandemic. In many countries, public servants were quick to readjust the way by which these services are delivered.
For example, in countries wherein the health system was overwhelmed by the number of COVID-19 cases, the public and private sector rolled out telemedicine and telehealth services. These assure people that they will have access to medical professionals for their non-COVID-19 conditions. The confidence in their government seeks to empower people.
The distribution of information is critical in times of a pandemic. Governments must produce materials that will spread relevant information to the public. This is the most critical role of governments during a pandemic. People need to learn how to avoid spreading the virus, detect COVID-19 symptoms, and practice good hygiene. Using technology to help disseminate information is the government’s responsibility.
Governments have the most important role to play in this pandemic. They must ensure their citizens’ well-being, as well as their access to facilities that they need to work and study. Their immediate response to the pandemic will be a telling sign of how well their people are going to survive this one and any future pandemics.