Michele Siekerka, president and CEO of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, and Tom Bracken, president and CEO of the New Jersey State Chamber of Commerce, issued the following statement today regarding a regional approach to reopening New Jersey businesses.
“It appears that deferring to industry experts and local officials for COVID-19 reopening decisions is the proper process, except when it comes to the reopening of our businesses.
“On Monday, Governor Murphy deferred decisions on fall sports to the NJSIAA, saying that, as experts, they know best. And, last week, the governor and the state Department of Health released guidelines for school reopenings, using data from six regions to inform local decisions and deferring to local health officials and school districts as the experts because ‘no one size fits all.’
“The New Jersey Business Coalition has repeatedly called for a regional approach to the reopening of New Jersey’s economy. In doing so, the Coalition noted the DOH’s current reporting of COVID-19 cases on a county-by-county basis. It recommended that a grid of ‘safe’ vs. ‘cautious’ counties can easily be developed.
“We strongly maintain that there is no reason why the same approach embraced by the DOH for informing local educational decisions can’t be used for ending the extenuated pause on our businesses.
“In reopening our schools, the governor noted that only those schools which can certify that they can meet the state guidelines can open. This is exactly the protocol that the Business Coalition has advanced for the reopening of our businesses, as well - putting public health first.
“Advancing the continued responsible opening of New Jersey’s businesses is not about prioritizing the ability to go out to eat, as the governor has contended in his response to the Business Coalition’s regional approach.
“It is disheartening that the governor fails to acknowledge that the reopening is more critically about the return of livelihoods for thousands of our business owners. It is about saving their personal investments borne of years of sweat equity, the hundreds of thousands of jobs they provide and all they bring to the state’s economy. It’s about predictability and being able to plan – the hallmarks of any business endeavor. And it’s also about the mental health of those struggling to survive, and those who are shut in.
“If 'data determines dates' and 'public health creates economic health,' and we have improved COVID-19 numbers, but continued lagging economic numbers, we call on Governor Murphy to end the pause of reopening New Jersey businesses.
"If not statewide, then through the regional approach that has already been adopted elsewhere in the state, with input from local officials and experts in their industries.
“We look forward to sharing our data and comprehensive plan during the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee meeting on Thursday.”