NJBIA urged lawmakers this week to approve legislation that would establish county-based pandemic plans for regulating business operations during COVID-19, instead of the current statewide approach that New Jersey has been using these past nine months.
“The public health and economic situation at a restaurant in Salem, New Jersey has very little to do with that of a bar in Paramus, yet statewide executive orders governing business operations treat these two businesses in towns separated by over two hours and 130 miles the same way,” NJBIA Vice President Christopher Emigholz said in his testimony prepared for the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
“This would mean that businesses in parts of the state that have been spared from the worst of COVID-19 can be shielded from the worst of any economic lockdown,” Emigholz said. “The entire economy and all of our tax revenue would not have to suffer as much with this scalpel approach, instead of a blunter statewide edict, while public health will still be appropriately protected.”
Emigholz noted New York and Pennsylvania both have adopted a regional approach to business restrictions during the pandemic, which allows businesses in areas where there have not been spikes in coronavirus cases to be spared from government-ordered closures or further operating restrictions.
Emigholz also asked for amendments that he said would improve the bill, A-4910, sponsored by Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-3). Specifically, he asked that the data points used to make decisions on business operations also include for consideration the number of COVID-19 patients in hospital intensive care units and the number of COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 people in a county.
“If (COVID-19) deaths start to creep up everywhere, county deaths may be telling to see if COVID-19 is hitting a particular county, and its more vulnerable population harder,” Emigholz said. “NJBIA supports this bill regardless, however, adding these data requirements makes this bill stronger.”
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, NJBIA has consistently called for a more regional approach to business reopenings, as well as a more transparent decision-making process, including clear and consistent data and timelines.
“To run a business, you need a plan, and it is hard to plan under the constant threat of unpredictable and unilateral restrictions from state government,” Emigholz said. “Businesses need predictability – and making the rules and data that drives those rules more available to and understood by all will breed confidence and hope for businesses and consumers.”
The Assembly Appropriations Committee voted 11-0 to release the bill.