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Dean Heyl: Labor Department finds good news, strength in midst of the pandemic

When 2020 began, the United States was experiencing historic economic growth and record low unemployment. In fact, through February 2020, there were more job openings than job seekers.

Then coronavirus stunned the world, and our economy was rocked to its very core.

As the director of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Public Liaison, I’ve spent the past few months hearing from outside groups and individuals to get a “pulse” on what is happening and how businesses are adapting to these historic times and letting them know what the Trump Administration is doing to help them during this unprecedented pandemic.

What strikes me most about these discussions is the ability of business owners and employees to bounce back.

In the midst of the pandemic, private sector leaders have stepped up, displaying a remarkable amount of ingenuity to bring their businesses, employees and our nation through these difficult times.

Their dedication to rebuilding in the midst of an unforeseen crisis proves that America’s economy is as resilient as its hardworking citizens.

More than 800 distilleries all over the country are producing hand sanitizer to help fight the spread of the coronavirus. Restaurants are delivering food to hospital workers, hiring thousands of drivers to meet the demand.

Some restaurants also are providing meals to hungry children who no longer are receiving free or reduced-price school lunches due to the widespread school closures caused by COVID-19. Warehouse fulfillment centers also have risen to the task of supplying people with the necessities to get through the pandemic.

In East Texas, a candy maker reconfigured his business to produce 30,000 to 40,000 face shields per day and added more than 60 employees full time.

Many hotels, previously left empty by the virus, are open for patients who need to be quarantined and for first responders who need a place to rest between long and strenuous shifts.

Automobile makers and vacuum-cleaner companies repurposed their factories to manufacture ventilators.

Retailers have pooled their resources and capabilities through retail mutual assistance agreements to stay at peak performance.

The stories of innovation, ingenuity and resilience are growing every day, in every corner of the country. These stories are those of ordinary Americans with an extraordinary dedication to the well-being of their community.

The department also has been working tirelessly to help the country’s workers and employers through the pandemic.

With the passage of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES), the Department of Labor is dedicated to providing American families with security in these difficult times and providing guidance to American businesses.

At the department, we are committed to making vital information accessible to the American public through our Coronavirus Resources page at www.dol.gov/coronavirus, where the department has put together a wealth of information regarding workplace safety, support for dislocated workers and a variety of other topics.

We also have resources in more than 17 languages, including Spanish.

These are difficult times, but the Department of Labor is working around the clock to fulfill its mission to “foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.”

The team at the Department of Labor is honored to be working alongside the American people, who have shown tremendous courage in the face of an invisible enemy, and we will win this battle together.

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