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A bill before the Assembly today that would have required county-based plans for imposing or lifting business operating restrictions, instead of the statewide, one-size-fits-all executive orders that have been used since the pandemic began nearly a year ago, was not acted upon as scheduled.

The bill, S-3093/A-4910, supported by NJBIA and sponsored by Senator Vin Gopal (D-11) and Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-3), would require a color-categorized (red, yellow, green) mitigation plan based on local conditions and data. Decisions affecting business operations would correlate to the spread of COVID-19 in that particular county.

NJBIA Vice President of Government Affairs Christopher Emigholz said more New Jersey small businesses will be able to survive if those located in counties with significantly fewer COVID-19 cases are not subject to the exact same operating restrictions imposed where cases are higher.

“There are 36.3% fewer small businesses  in New Jersey now than there were in January of 2020, and the state should be doing everything possible to help save the ones that are left,” Emigholz said. “Blanket statewide executive orders unnecessarily hurt businesses trying to survive in counties were COVID-19 cases are significantly lower than other areas of the state.”

Emigholz said the 36.3% decline in all businesses is a statewide average, and that some sectors of the economy have been harder hit. As of Feb. 10, the number of small businesses in the hospitality industry, which includes restaurants, has decreased by 54.4% compared to January of 2020.

These business closures have led to more than 2 million people filing initial unemployment claims since the pandemic began in March of 2020, which equates to 44.3% of New Jersey’s pre-pandemic labor force, Emigholz said.

“The color-coded reopening system established under this legislation will allow decisions on operating restrictions to be based on local data and give at least some businesses what they desperately need – a chance to survive,” Emigholz said.

The Senate unanimously approved the legislation on Jan. 28.

Additionally, other bills NJBIA was supporting were also held today – a legislative package sponsored by Assemblyman Louis Greenwald (D-6) that will also help those in the restaurant industry. They include

  • A-5133 – Expands indoor capacity for food or beverage establishments and banquet and wedding venues under certain circumstances during coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.
  • A-5135 – Allows continued use of heaters and tents by food or beverage establishments under certain circumstances during coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.
  • A-5136 – Provides more certainty and predictability to restaurants struggling with the overly restrictive limits put in place due to the pandemic.
  • A-5139 – Eases certain food and beverage establishment tent requirements during coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.

“We are disappointed these bills were not advanced today, but we hope they can be moved again soon to help our struggling businesses and restaurants,” Emigholz said.