Economic Recovery Relies on New Opportunities and Vaccine Distribution

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on our lives and economy. As a result of disruptions that businesses have faced during the pandemic, we have seen record-high unemployment and permanent business closures. Until the coronavirus is under control and we can return to our normal lives before the pandemic, the impact on our economy and American families will only continue to worsen.

According to the Local Economic Impact Report published by Yelp in September 2020, more than 97,966 businesses have permanently closed during the pandemic. In a University of Southern California’s Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE) study, projections show that net losses on U.S. GDP from the pandemic could be between $3 and $4 trillion over the next two years.

The struggling economy provides no shortage of challenges for our nation to overcome. At a time when American businesses and families are suffering and the country needs economic stimulus, government officials should prioritize opportunities that can help support U.S. industries and stimulate the economy. Long overdue investments in our nation’s infrastructure, for example, can help rebuild our outdated infrastructure system while creating new jobs in communities nationwide.

In addition to finding new opportunities to accelerate economic recovery and rebuild our country, economy and workforce during this difficult time, vaccine distribution will be the key to any return to normalcy. Until the world population is vaccinated, the virus will continue to spread and threaten our ability to fully recover, which is why we need a coordinated vaccine rollout system in place here in the U.S. and globally.

This month’s edition of Inside Story explores opportunities for economic growth and recovery, including infrastructure investments, as well as the need for an efficient vaccine distribution process to combat this public health crisis.

Gloria Story Dittus, Chairman, Story Partners

Investing in America’s Infrastructure and Economy

Our nation’s trucking industry and entire transportation network is dependent on a well-maintained infrastructure system to keep our goods moving and to ensure that America’s 3.6 million professional truck drivers can safely deliver to communities across the country. Unfortunately, our nation’s outdated infrastructure has been in decline for decades – adding needless congestion that hurts our environment and damages public safety, while also hurting our economy.

Repairing our nation’s ailing infrastructure is dire and should be a top priority for federal lawmakers this year. If the proper federal investments are not made quickly, the state of America’s roads and bridges will only continue to get worse and require even greater investment. Continued delays in addressing our infrastructure needs only unnecessarily delays the benefits we can all reap from better roads and bridges: safer streets, cleaner air, a more efficient supply chain and thousands of new jobs to help our nation recover from a once-in-a-generation pandemic.

In times of crisis – whether it is a pandemic, a recession or a natural disaster – delivering essential goods is critical, and in order to do that, trucks need well-maintained, modern infrastructure. Imagine if truck drivers were unable to deliver PPE, medication or supplies to our hospitals, or toilet paper and hand sanitizer to our stores to restock the shelves. ATA remains committed to working with the Biden Administration and new Congress to assist in advancing a robust highway funding bill to rebuild our national infrastructure and strengthen the economy. A robust infrastructure agenda, which supports immediate funding for short-term needs while developing solutions to modernize our transportation networks over the long-term, is what is needed to ensure the continued success of our industry and nation.

Chris Spear, President and CEO, American Trucking Associations

All Levels of Government Must Work Together for an Effective COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout

As the political pendulum in Washington swings in a different direction, one thing remains the same: the commitment of the federal, state and local governments to safely and effectively distribute a COVID-19 vaccine to all of our residents. There is no question the initial vaccine rollout has had its challenges. But out of the challenge, we see an opportunity to strengthen the intergovernmental partnership, and work together to deliver the vaccine to residents in a manner that is both equitable and efficient.

Counties invest heavily in local residents’ health and well-being and have been on the front lines of our nation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic since day one. Our role in the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine is evident in the wide range of responsibilities we hold in preserving the local health safety net. Counties support over 900 hospitals, 824 long-term care facilities and 1,943 local health departments. As trusted voices, we are often responsible for communicating timely, accurate vaccine updates to the public. And we must combat vaccine hesitancy in all populations with factual and relevant messaging that reaches all communities.

Counties need strong intergovernmental partnerships in this unprecedented vaccine rollout. We remain committed to working with our state, federal and other local government partners. First, we must look to the federal government to provide the resources and infrastructure needed to support and plan local distribution efforts through direct and flexible federal assistance to counties, clear communication and a national strategy that distinguishes roles at all levels of government, in all stages of distribution. Secondly, we must work with our state and other local government partners to pool resources, equitably and appropriately divide responsibilities, and develop clear and consistent messaging for residents on vaccine safety, and when and how to receive the vaccine.

We cannot return to normal without winning the public health fight, and the vaccine is a game-changing tool in our arsenal. It is through our collective efforts that we will ensure seamless coordination of distribution, and it is how we will ultimately end this pandemic together.

Blaire Bryant, Associate Legislative Director for Health, National Association of Counties (NACo)


How Rebuilding our Infrastructure Can Rebuild Our Economy

With the immensely challenging year of 2020 now in the rearview, all of us are looking ahead with a sense of hope and optimism for a better 2021. With this new year comes a new administration and Congress and fresh opportunities to work constructively and collaboratively to rebuild an economy ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our economic recovery first requires eradicating the virus. With mass vaccinations underway and continued public health efforts, we can reduce the spread and relieve the stress on our health care system. Those are crucial steps toward restoring confidence, so people are willing and able to get back out into their communities to gather, work, and support businesses large and small.

Recovery also requires building a governing coalition committed to bipartisan solutions that ensure broad-based economic prosperity. Rebuilding our infrastructure—something everyone agrees we need to do—offers an immediate way for Congress and the new administration to show their commitment to this effort.

While support for rebuilding infrastructure is broad and bipartisan, action is long overdue, because the need for it is enormous. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that if we don’t adequately invest in infrastructure, over the next twenty years it will cost the average American household $3,300 annually.

Government and business leaders know rebuilding our infrastructure will not only quickly create millions of good-paying jobs, it also will put the U.S. economy on a solid footing to compete globally.

Recently the Chamber and the Bipartisan Policy Center launched a new “Build By the Fourth” campaign. A diverse coalition of nearly 200 national and local organizations have united in urging lawmakers to pass a fiscally and environmentally responsible package by July 4.

This coalition of business, labor, and environmental groups believe that a comprehensive infrastructure package should:

  • Repair and update our infrastructure
  • Stimulate our economy and create jobs
  • Promote fiscally and environmentally responsible policies
  • Improve federal project approvals
  • Address the digital divide

The breadth of this coalition shows that the private sector is broadly behind this effort—and we are calling on the public sector to also make it a priority. We stand together ready to help Congress and the Biden administration get this done. We won’t agree on every element, but we do know that by working together we can build better infrastructure and economy for all Americans. It’s time to start moving.

Suzanne P. Clark, President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Suzanne P. Clark is president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world’s largest business organization representing employers of every size and sector, in Washington, across the country, and around the globe.

Transforming Supply Chains at Warp Speed: High-Stakes COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

After months of anticipation, we all watched the first trucks leave the Pfizer distribution center in Portage, Michigan transporting the coronavirus vaccine to all parts of the country in carefully packed and environmentally monitored boxes under U.S. Marshall escort. We could not help but wonder how we could be sure there would not be a supply chain failure, and, if there was, would we know.

We listened to FedEx, UPS and Boyle Transportation executives talk about their unique security and safety measures without much insight into the details for competitive reasons. At the same time, skeptics espoused concerns about the safe transportation of a vaccine that requires storage of -100°F.

As the vaccine distribution begins, we anticipate there will be missteps — probably some big, and those will be well-publicized, but once we emerge from the pandemic, we will be left with capabilities that were developed and proven in months that would otherwise have taken years.

If ever there was the motivation for competing organizations to work together to optimize a supply chain while still preserving their independence and competitive advantage, it is now. We predict that they will do it at warp speed and that we will see fundamental changes in the way that technology is deployed to transparently manage supply chains.

Let’s look at some of the unique challenges of this supply chain.

  • The scale in the U.S. is unheard of and the vaccine is a valuable commodity that needs enhanced security throughout the supply chain.
  • There are many links in the chain – from trucks and logistics, all the way to local delivery vehicles and health care facilities – and no room for error. A failure anywhere puts lives at risk.
  • This chain is not owned or governed by one organization; it is supported by a diverse ecosystem across private and public entities – with varying levels of technology sophistication – that are unaccustomed to working together and exchanging mission-critical information.
  • The federal government has spent months planning for efficient distribution, but ultimately states and municipalities need to plan for and fund the “last mile”. This is bound to be done inconsistently.
  • Environmental factors, such as winter storms, will disrupt distribution and deliveries will need to be dynamically rerouted.

To address these challenges, supply chain participants will need to share accurate data in order to safely and effectively deliver the highest number of doses possible. While the cross-enterprise workflow technology exists, it is unproven even at modest scale. Blockchain has shown the potential to manage data reliably across a decentralized network, and IoT linked with smart contracts can track events as they occur. Add in machine learning and artificial intelligence and you can predict the bottlenecks, identify shrinkage and dynamically reroute based on defined protocols. And there are several software platforms that link disparate systems together to share, manage and verify data across platforms.

As we’ve extensively written at DSCI, the challenge of managing a cross-enterprise ecosystem is less about the technology and all about the governance.

Companies intuitively understand that cross-enterprise enabling technology has business advantages but have been unable to quantify the business case and have been reluctant to deal with the governance and competitive complexities. What we are witnessing today, with the distribution of vaccines, is disruptive change forcing companies to deal with these complexities in real-time. The recognition of the inherit value of cross-enterprise visibility and data exchange will fundamentally alter supply chains in 2021 and beyond.

-Shawn Muma, Technology Research Leader, CGE’s Digital Supply Chain Institute