Business groups to Murphy: Give us specific data points, dates on reopening

Letter from more than 90 organizations says struggling business need more certainty to plan

The New Jersey Business Coalition — saying struggling businesses need certainty and time to plan — sent a letter to Gov. Phil Murphy this weekend encouraging him to announce a reopening plan with specific target dates.

The letter, sent Saturday, references one of Murphy’s long-used slogans: Data determines dates, something the governor has said hundreds of times since the pandemic took grip on the state — but something he never actually has provided specifics on, much to the frustration of business owners.

“We recognize data determines dates,” the group said in the letter. “Therefore, we request definitive thresholds be established for the data you are using to drive reopening decisions. Further, those thresholds should only result in restrictions that are narrowly tailored and rationally related to the goals they are seeking, given the current circumstances.”

Read the full letter here.

The New Jersey Business Coalition is a group of more than 90 business organizations and nonprofit groups. It is headed by the New Jersey Business & Industry Association. The group warns that businesses need predictability to plan for their next recovery steps.

“The business community needs specific reopening benchmarks to provide transparency and predictability,” the letter said. “After nearly a year of the pandemic, businesses are reeling: the number of small businesses open as of Feb. 10 was down 34.2% relative to January 2020.

“With hospitalizations below 2,000 and other COVID metrics in our continued favor, we need a comprehensive strategic reopening plan that lays out the indicators and thresholds that will determine further reopening this spring and summer. Businesses need that predictability to make informed decisions that are right for their operations, employees and customers.”

The group also asked for more specifics on capacity and child care, saying:

  • For businesses affected by gathering capacity limits, events are usually booked well in advance, meaning businesses need to know now what they can reasonably expect for the spring and summer;
  • Capacity limits should be relative to the square footage of a venue. It does not make sense to have the same capacity limit for a small garden party versus a larger venue.
  • Child care centers offer key support to parents who work. The continued practice of placing capacity restrictions on child care licenses puts the industry in a severely disadvantaged position relative to surrounding states that do not have those restrictions.

The group also said businesses can help in the vaccination effort.

“As vaccine supply increases, it is highly appropriate to now implement a plan that includes businesses as community (points of dispension),” the letter said. “As we move beyond the initial phases of vaccine distribution, utilizing employers could improve vaccination efficiency, free up capacity at open PODs and improve vaccine hesitancy, given that employees already have an established relationship with their employers.

“Employers can be a good source of education for their workforce as the vaccine rollout continues and employees may be more apt to engage in the process if they choose to be vaccinated when their employer is involved in the process. As such, it is time to provide employers with a plan to be further engaged in the vaccine rollout, as we have seen in other states.”