Eileen Kean, the state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, understands the rising number of COVID-19 cases may force Gov. Phil Murphy to do something.
She also has a solution for him: Punish businesses who are not following the existing guidelines when it comes to COVID-19 responsibility.
To Kean, that’s a far better solution than what she fears could be coming this week: A blanket approach that impacts — and hurts — all of the small businesses she represents.
“I have personally observed locations that really didn’t practice good COVID behavior — and I’ve seen the establishments that are doing everything by the book,” she told ROI-NJ. “So, on behalf of small businesses, it would be so much better to try to have some investigations and punish the bad guys and not the good guys.
“This isn’t one size fits all.”
She fears it will be.
News that Murphy and five other Northeast governors (from New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont) held a regional summit to discuss the increasing numbers is a great concern for Kean.
“The NFIB in New Jersey, which represents thousands of small businesses in the state, is concerned that any uniform regional response could endanger small businesses if further restrictions are put in place,” she said.
“The economic wreckage that added restrictions could cause here in New Jersey should be carefully considered, because the consequences could be dire for small businesses and their employees.”
How bad could it be? Kean said it could lead to a surge of closings.
“Overreaching multistate executive orders could be the end to the road for those who are barely holding on, especially hard-hit businesses that already face ongoing, rigid restrictions in our state,” she said.
And here’s the biggest thing, Kean said: There’s no evidence that the increase in cases is being caused by businesses. Her source? The governor himself.
“His innuendo that says that the spikes aren’t coming from restaurants and they are not coming from gyms,” she said. “It’s coming from private homes and large gatherings.”
Kean is far from someone who is dismissive of COVID. It needs to be taken seriously, she said. And the response needs to take all things into account.
“I appreciate and support the need to balance of safety and the good health of everybody who lives in New Jersey, but, at the same time, I can’t emphasize enough that (we need to) enforce the rules,” she said.
Most of all, Kean said hopes Murphy will make any decisions based on impact on New Jersey — not the region.
“As Gov. Murphy is interacting with this group of Northeastern governors, we strongly encourage him to put the interests of New Jersey citizens and small businesses far ahead of regional goals,” she said. “Our state’s approach should not be decided by groups of elected officials in other states, but right here in Trenton.”
Kean said the NFIB believes that, while it is good for governors to share thoughts and data, each state is distinctly different and requires a variety of creative approaches. Decisions by committee don’t best serve their state residents.
“Any broad-brush approach could impact New Jersey businesses that happen to be located in areas without an uptick in cases,” she said. “It would be better to target individual outbreaks to minimize economic harm.”