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The chairman of Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin’s Economic Advisory Council said Friday the panel hopes to make its recommendations within the next few weeks on a COVID-19 recovery plan for New Jersey that will help ensure a safe and successful reopening of more businesses.

George Zoffinger, the former state commerce commissioner tapped by Assembly Speaker Coughlin to lead the 34-person council, told NJBIA’s Government Affairs Policy Committee during a video conference call that the council’s recommendations would address both short-term and long-term strategies.

“We need to put people back to work as quickly and as safely as possible — everybody agrees on that,” Zoffinger said.

To do this, schools, day care facilities and summer camps must be reopened so that parents working remotely from their homes are able to return to their workplaces. There also needs to be adequate, reliable COVID-19 testing in place so that people feel safe going back to work and school.

Employers also need reasonable protection from COVID-19 lawsuits if they have followed proper safety guidelines for reopening their businesses to employees and customers, he said. Employer liability protection legislation could address that challenge, he said.

Zoffinger said the council’s subcommittees are led by business people with expertise in banking, accounting, law, education, economic development, healthcare, infrastructure/manufacturing, tourism and social services. The members have been exploring a variety of tax incentives, including possible “statewide enterprise zones,” and state tax deductions for charitable giving.

Nonprofit social services organizations are dealing with overwhelming need due to COVID-19, but have fewer resources than ever, which is why greater tax incentives for charitable giving are needed, he said.

Zoffinger said the council is mindful of the caveat “that not all solutions can be things that cost us money” given the financial pressures on the state budget.

“I’m confident that we can come up with things that make sense economically and from the standpoint of safety,” Zoffinger said.

Other guest speakers at Friday’s meeting included: Senator Steve Oroho, R-24, who is the Senate Republican Budget Officer; Mark Magyar, the Associate Executive Director of the Senate Democratic Majority Office, and Dan Harris, the Legislative Director for Assembly Speaker Coughlin.

Harris said the Assembly would be meeting throughout the summer and both houses of the Legislature would be in session on Tuesday, Aug. 25 to hear the Governor’s budget address for the next fiscal year.

Oroho repeated his calls to use the Business Coalition work to help guide the reopening of businesses that are desperately needed to lessen the difficult economic and budget situation New Jersey faces.