My name is Chrissy Buteas, and I am the Chief Government Affairs Officer for the New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA). On behalf of our member companies that provide 1 million jobs in our state and make NJBIA the largest statewide business association in the nation, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you regarding S-2629.
In a crisis such as we are in, NJBIA believes that reopening the childcare industry safely is a necessary step in restoring our state’s economy. We are not opposed to testing and believe it is essential that all necessary steps are taken to create a safe environment for children and workers, as well as provide a reliable service to parents.
However, this legislation hinders agencies’ ability to promote safe practices by requiring them to focus resources on testing requirements that will be unattainable for many organizations. Additionally, difficulty obtaining testing, or long delays in receiving testing results, could impact staffing levels and undermine the day-to-day operations of an industry that parents rely on. Creating a safe environment for children and workers in the childcare industry is a priority and NJBIA is happy to see legislators considering ways to achieve that safety. But, the current bill attempts to achieve these goals through non-practicable means. We would like to highlight the following concerns with the legislation:
- Testing capacity might not be able to meet demand from the childcare industry.
- This bill would require an additional 50,000 to 87,000 tests per week, or 7,143 to 12,429 tests per day.
- Currently, the state is administering just over 20,000 tests per day and DOH Commissioner Judith Persichilli has recently acknowledged that the testing system has become strained due to high demand in our state and beyond.
- It is unlikely that the state’s testing capacity could handle an extra 7,100 to 12,500 tests per day, especially as testing demand increases.
- The time lags in testing will create unrealistic expectations for owners/operators.
- The average turnaround for test results has risen to five days, up from two to four days a few weeks ago, as demand has increased. Parents/guardians might expect to see test results of workers that are not yet available due to the testing wait time.
- If this undermines parents’ trust in childcare centers, then parents might use these services less frequently or rely on unregulated environments that are available and cheaper.
- The bill might create liability issues for owners/operators.
- Unless addressed by the bill, owners/operators might be responsible for the spread of COVID-19 if employees spread the virus while waiting to receive their test results.
- This would further strain organizations’ operations, even though they were in full compliance with state and federal health guidelines, including those in this bill.
- The bill could undermine owners’ abilities to operate their organizations efficiently.
- Although the bill acknowledges that testing is required only when possible, it is unclear what organizations are supposed to do when unable to get testing, especially if it is something that parents come to expect.
- Organizations might be forced to send non-tested workers home, leaving operations under-staffed and hurting their ability to create a safe/monitored environment.
Thank you for considering our perspective on the legislation, and we look forward to continuing to work with you all to help all New Jersey businesses and taxpayers through this pandemic.