Road to rebuild: N.J. Business Coalition provides framework for reopening to governor

Michele Siekerka.

Provide a good-faith safe harbor for employers who reopen and are doing their best to protect their employees and customers. … Develop a workforce development program paid for by federal funds to train displaced workers with skills that will be more necessary. … Ensure with the use of federal funds that adequate child care facilities are able to operate with necessary resources and without burdensome restrictions so the workforce can return to its jobsites.

Those are just some of the dozens of recommendations the New Jersey Business Coalition, a group of more than 75 business and nonprofit organizations, sent to Gov. Phil Murphy and the Legislature this weekend with the goal of helping the state create a framework to reopen for business.

The coalition, led by the New Jersey Business & Industry Association, is offering more than just broad-based ideas. It also has produced dozens of sector-specific documents — covering everything from recreation to restaurants, child care to dental care, even major sectors, such as life sciences and pharma.

Michele Siekerka, the CEO of the NJBIA, said the proposals are meant to be a dynamic document that serves as a starting point for the state’s leaders to use when the governor announces his next level of teams he will use to plan the state’s economic reopening.

Those working groups, which Murphy referenced during his daily briefing Monday, will be organized by sectors.

Siekerka said she has been meeting with state officials throughout the process to ensure they are gathering the type of information that can help these groups.

“We’ve been operating all along with full visibility to the governor’s folks,” she said. “We have regular briefings with them, and they know that we’ve been working on this. We gave them the original framework, so they knew exactly the data we were collecting.”

Siekerka said the group gathered data from an NJBIA survey and reached out for best policy documents geared toward reopening.

“We have created a recovery and reinvention framework that is meant to address the needs of business in one part, in a vertical manner, so that we know by vertical sector what each business needs by way of reopening and what are the best practices for them to safely reopened,” she said.

One key recommendation is creating a risk assessment tool (which other states have) that can help determine the difficulty a sector will have to reopen.

Siekerka emphasized that the group’s recommendations are just a starting point — but that having a starting point will help speed the process of reopening.

“We’ve been doing this for weeks, because we knew we needed to start gathering this data,” she said. “We went to business leaders and asked them, what can you do and what do you need?

“Our goal is for this to be plug and play. We know there are going to be gaps, but the goal was to create a framework that could be a starting point.”

See below for the complete list of recommendations and a list of the business and nonprofit organizations that are in the coalition.

Read more from ROI-NJ on coronavirus: