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After months of restrictions, Missouri is finally open for business once again. The last few months have brought nationwide unemployment to Great Depression-era levels, which has obviously hurt our economy, but more importantly, it has endangered American lives. Studies consistently show unemployment directly leads to things like mental health issues, suicide, substance abuse, domestic abuse and violent crimes. On top of that, the blanket shutdowns of hospitals and other medical facilities has led to tens of thousands of patients missing cancer treatments and other critical procedures. In many parts of the country, including much of Missouri, unemployment has been just as big of a threat, if not bigger, to society than the coronavirus itself.

While the virus remains a concern, Missouri has exceeded recovery expectations by ramping up testing capabilities, PPE supplies and hospital readiness, and we are now prepared to responsibly resume normal life. Early in the reopening, things are already looking up for the economy. Missouri's Department of Labor said this week that our state's unemployment has declined from more than 100,000 claims in March to just 20,000 in the first week of June. These numbers are extremely encouraging and show Missourians are ready and willing to get back to work to support their families and pay the bills. It also shows we continue to support local businesses and do our best help the rest of our community get back on its feet. Many of us have spent the last couple months at home missing things we might have taken for granted before like going out for an ice cream cone, getting a haircut or going to dinner with our families. We are now able to do these things again, and I know the businesses in our community are looking forward to having our support.

Even with our support, reopening doesn't immediately eliminate the need for assistance. A three-month shutdown has lasting effects. Fortunately, the governor's state of emergency declaration will continue until Dec. 30 to allow Missouri to continue using emergency funding from the Congress-passed CARES Act. This will give businesses in our state that have taken a huge hit the time and flexibility they need to recover. The governor's recovery plan also includes testing resources for Missourians and businesses that want to continue testing employees or put safeguards in place to protect customers. These and more helpful reopening resources, including up-to-date CDC guidelines, can be found at showmestrong.mo.gov/testing-resources.

As we're excited to get back to normal, it is important to remember that some people will be more comfortable doing this than others. And some people in our community need to continue practicing extreme caution. We can protect those who are at-risk without having our entire state shut down and threatening the rest of the population. Missourians have the right to make their own decisions, and Gov. Mike Parson is absolutely right to reopen our state. Let's continue to take care of each other and work together to rebuild what just six months ago was the strongest economy in our history.

U.S. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., shares his perspective each week on national issues, including ones that affect Missouri. He represents the state's 3rd District, which includes Jefferson City. His local office can be reached at 635-7232.

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