• Meghan Harvey

State Rep. Lou Schmitt: 'There is a silver lining'

First Frontier Forward had the chance to sit down with State Representative Lou Schmitt to discuss Pennsylvania’s position in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lou Schmitt, a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, acknowledged that although this is a tough time for everybody, there are some silver linings we can look forward to.

“We are currently working on some legislation that we hope will lead to a lot of our businesses opening back up,” Schmitt says. “We have to take into consideration balancing the need to recover economically and socially from this disease with public health. It’s a very difficult balance to strike because we are in an unprecedented situation, the likes of which none of us have ever seen before. We’re trying to do what’s best.”

Businesses that have been classified as “non-essential” are in a tough position of wanting to be open, but also wanting to be as safe as possible and follow all necessary precautions.

“I personally believe that every business is essential,” says Schmitt. “Every business provides economic productivity and resources for our economy. They provide jobs for people, and livelihoods. They help people to save money and to invest money. They make our nation strong and healthy economically.”

“Yet, we’re facing a pandemic. We’re facing an enemy we can’t see, and we are doing the best we can to strike that balance between protecting public health and protecting the future of our commonwealth and our nation, which is going to be based in a strong economic recovery.”

Because this is such an unfamiliar situation we find ourselves in, we often don’t know what the “best” or “right” answer is. “With no real experience of having faced this before, I think we’re doing the best we can,” says Schmitt.

There is currently a bill moving through the state legislature that will allow businesses to open while mandating they follow CDC guidelines to protect employees, customers, and clients. “As this curve begins to flatten, hopefully within the next few weeks, we’ll be able to get these businesses back open again, and really lay the foundation for the future,” Schmitt says.

There are programs available through the federal government and the Small Business Administration to help sustain businesses during these times. “To a certain extent, we need to make the economy go dormant in order to protect public health, but we don’t want these businesses to go into such a deep sleep that they never come out of it,” says Schmitt. “Once we give the all clear sign, we need these businesses to be able to come back to life again, serve their customers, and be productive in our economy.”

In troubling times, it’s important we find the positives. Although the pandemic is physically distancing us from one another, in some ways it is also bringing us closer together. We’re becoming more mindful of how we conduct ourselves as humans, and just how fragile life is.

“There are some bright spots that I see,” says Schmitt. “I see a lot of families spending more time together, parents spending more time with each other, and more time with their children. I see families out walking together and hiking together. I see families riding bicycles together. People are getting off their phones and going outside. There is a silver lining to the clouds.”

The COVID-19 pandemic is also giving us much-needed experience for if and when something like this happens again. “I think it’s a good lesson for us to go back after we get through this crisis, look at it, and ask ‘What were we prepared for? What weren’t we prepared for? What worked, and what didn’t work?’” says Schmitt.

“We’ll get through this. It’s not going to be easy, but times will get better,” Schmitt continues. “Someday we’ll look back on this and remember it as a bad time in our lives, but a time that we all got through together.”

Lou Schmitt encourages anyone with questions regarding the state government to contact his office by phone or email. The office can be reached at (814) 946-7218 or www.replouschmitt.com.

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