With the curve flattening and the number of active COVID-19 cases falling, the time is now to start thinking about the policies needed to restart the economy when the state is able to reopen responsibly, and business groups are leading the discussion.
“No one is suggesting the state should reopen tomorrow,” said NJBIA Chief Government Affairs Officer Chrissy Buteas said. “NJBIA agrees that reopening should be based on facts as determined by science and health professionals. What we’re suggesting is to start the planning process now so that when the time is right, we have a framework in place to make reopening safe and successful.”
Buteas also pointed out that NJBIA member companies are ready to get back to work, with 70% saying they are confident they can operate safely under the recommendations from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Furthermore, a coalition of 80 business groups in a coalition put together by NJBIA has laid out a framework from reopening that includes measures to prevent a resurgence of coronavirus cases and provisions for stimulating the kind of economic growth New Jersey is going to need.
Gov. Phil Murphy has said the state will not reopen until it has sufficient capacity to conduct coronavirus diagnostic tests and engage in contact tracing to prevent community spread of the virus. The coalition has called for an additional risk assessment tool that considers economic data as well as health data, such as one developed in Wisconsin.
Officials should also be mindful of the time limit on the business assistance programs in the federal CARES Act. The programs are designed to carry businesses that have had their operations restricted or halted through the tough period, with the idea that they will be up and running again at some point in the near future. The Paycheck Protection Program, for instance, is scheduled to end on June 30.
The coalition also advises state officials to position New Jersey for a rapid economic recovery.
Infrastructure investment is seen as a priority because it provides both immediate and long-term benefits, and the coalition advises leveraging the New Jersey Infrastructure Bank to make the most of infrastructure funding. Specifically, the framework calls for policies that deliver results quickly, like streamlining project reviews, increasing efficiencies in business practices and procurement processes, and prioritizing public infrastructure investment based on project need, as opposed to what is simply “shovel ready.”
Legal liabilities associated with reopening could repress the economic development that New Jersey needs. If businesses are afraid of being sued by workers or patrons, they will be less inclined to open. The coalition recommends providing a good faith safe harbor for employers who comply with CDC guidance and prioritize safety of both patrons and employees.
These are just a few of the recommendations (The full framework can be viewed here). NJBIA believes the state should begin working on these and other policies to position the state to reopen safely and effectives once health conditions allow for it.