County-by-county approaches to business reopenings are happening in New York and Pennsylvania. But not for businesses in New Jersey.
Regional decisions are being in made in New Jersey for school openings. But, again, not for businesses in New Jersey.
But a bill that advanced unanimously in the Senate Commerce Committee this week and already passed by the Assembly Appropriations Committee back in November aims to change all that. And NJBIA is strongly supporting it.
NJBIA Vice President of Government Affairs Christopher Emigholz said the intent of bill S-3093 is to move New Jersey away from its one-size-fits-all model to benefit areas of the state that are less impacted by COVID-19.
“This is about using a scalpel approach for safe reopenings,” Emigholz said. “The fact of the matter is the public health and economic situation at a restaurant down in Salem often has very little to do with that of a bar in Paramus.
“Yet, the statewide executive order governing business operations treats two businesses separated by two hours and 130 miles the same way.”
In written testimony to the committee, Emigholz explained how neighboring New York and Pennsylvania have instituted regional approaches that allow for separate reopening areas based on public health data.
The bill, sponsored by Senator Vin Gopal (D11) and Senate President Steve Sweeney (D3), would direct Gov. Phil Murphy, in consultation with the commissioner of Health, to develop and implement a color categorized (red, yellow, green) mitigation plan to allow businesses to operate during a pandemic.
Sweeney, in a statement, said the bill allows New Jersey counties to “regain autonomy in making decisions that best benefit their community.”
During verbal testimony on Thursday, John Cifelli, general manager of Unionville Vineyards in East Amwell, explained that it’s unfair for businesses in areas with lower rates of infections and hospitalizations to be treated the same as areas that are harder hit.
“We know how to take care of ourselves,” Cifelli said. “We know how to take care of our customers, our communities. I ask you to let the people lead. Please let the economy recover.”
Should the bill make it to Gov. Murphy’s desk, it is unclear whether he will sign it. Last summer, he ruled out a regional approach to reopening the economy as it related to business, but later acknowledged the value of a regional approach for the reopening of schools in the fall.