Spokane Journal of Business

The Journal’s View: Kudos to employer groups’ efforts at recovery table

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As Washington begins to reopen businesses and looks to rebuild its economy, business groups should be lauded for their constructive, noncombative efforts when walking a fine line in advocating for restarting the economy while ensuring public safety.

A coalition of employer groups recently pledged support for a previously announced compact by the governors of Washington, Oregon, and California that calls for a shared vision for reopening their economies and controlling COVID-19 into the future.

The coalition, which includes Association of Washington Business, has been working closely with governors as they develop plans to reopen businesses.

That’s important, because for the restart to work, it’s going to take buy-in from employers willing to accept safety measures, as well as for employees who want to feel safe about returning to workplaces and for consumer confidence to bring customers back to businesses.

The employer coalition has brought forth principles that it asserts should be part of the governors’ vision.

Members say economic recovery plans should include assistance for employers as they develop and execute new safety practices and stock personal protective equipment and supplies. Such plans should include additional support for industries hit hardest by the pandemic response, such as restaurants, hotels, entertainment, and retail businesses.

Worker training programs should be expanded and implemented as soon as possible to assist those whose jobs may be permanently lost.

Policies should be flexible to allow more businesses and people to return to work if they can demonstrate that reasonable safety standards can be met, they say.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has set the wheels in motion to begin reopening the economy, and the state has entered the first of four phases of his “Safe Start” plan.

The plan rightfully prioritizes protecting public health and guards against another surge in COVID-19 cases that could overwhelm our health care systems.

As of this week, businesses that can reopen beyond those previously deemed essential, include existing construction that meets new safety criteria, landscaping, vehicle sales, curbside-pickup retail, car washes, and pet walkers.

The second phase of the Safe Start plan currently is anticipated to begin June 1, if current trends in reducing numbers of new coronavirus cases and deaths continues. The second phase would reopen remaining manufacturing, additional construction, in-home domestic services, limited in-store retail sales, real estate, office-based professional services, hair salons and barber shops, pet grooming, and restaurants at up to 50% percent capacity and with limited table sizes.

While the employer groups deserve kudos for their contributions to the recovery conversations, they see the current plans as a works in progress.

AWB, for example, already is asking Inslee to consider including manufacturing in the current phase of Washington’s Safe Start plan rather than the second phase.

While the coronavirus related metrics in Washington—especially regarding hospital stays and deaths—still need to improve before we approach a new normal business environment, the governor needs to keep the business community on his side.

They’re the folks who are going to execute economic recovery efforts when all is said and done.

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