Re-Opening the Economy: Challenging and Uneven

By at 27 May, 2020, 9:44 pm

by Raymond J. Keating-

The need to proceed with re-opening the economy is clear, especially from the perspectives of small businesses and tens of millions of people without jobs. Consider, for example, that the U.S. Department of Labor has reported that initial unemployment claims came in at 2.44 million during the week ending May 16, with continuing claims registering 25.1 million for the week ending May 9.

At the same time, the need to reopen safely also is clear, as the number of coronavirus cases, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center website accessed on the morning of May 21, registered 1.55 million in the United States, with a distressing 93,439 deaths.

In fact, Americans largely remain worried. According to a AP-NORC Poll of Americans conducted from May 14-18 and released on May 21, “Overall, 54% say the restrictions put in place in their area are about right to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, down from 61% last month. Eighteen percent think they go too far and 27% say they don’t go far enough.” In addition, “Overall, 54% are extremely or very concerned that lifting restrictions in their area will result in more people being infected, while 29% are somewhat concerned, and 16% are not very or not at all concerned.”

These numbers, in turn, will be reflected in consumer engagement as re-openings proceed, and speak to the need for businesses of all types and sizes to implement policies and procedures that give customers confidence.

And then there are issues relating to liability risks and uncertainties for businesses given the pandemic, with threats of lawsuits coming from consumers and employees. As noted in a CNBC report, “Businesses ‘have to get some kind of qualified immunity or it will be open season on employers,’ said Andrew Sherman, partner at Seyfarth Shaw in Washington, D.C.”

For good measure, wildcards of course remain in the mix for the disease itself, such as progress on vaccines and/or therapeutics, increases in testing, and the possibility of further spreading, spikes or returns of COVID-19.

As for where things stand in each state, NPR offer’s a handy state-by-state guide that apparently will be updated regularly. In that report, it’s pointed out that “as of May 20, all 50 states have begun the process of easing restrictions on businesses… State officials are charting paths to a new normal, seeking a balance between reopening economies and protecting public health. Governors are outlining new frameworks and timelines for their states as they ramp up testing and contact tracing efforts.”

Indeed, matters relating to business re-opening and the disease itself promise to continue to vary by and shift among states and localities. Small businesses, entrepreneurs, and workers need to remain nimble, and continue to look, as always, for ways to serve others.

Raymond J. Keating is chief economist for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.


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