In the aftermath of COVID-19 lockdowns, New York’s economic-development and reopening plan has been confusing, inconsistent, and has disregarded objective data and legislative cooperation. In every corner of the state, business owners have been forced to wade through complicated and constantly-changing guidance. The most recent iteration of this is based on a zone-colored scheme that has proven ineffective, while doors continue to close and jobs disappear.
[On Jan. 13] in Erie County, a State Supreme Court justice rejected Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “orange zone” indoor-dining restrictions — the governor is now apparently walking back those restrictions — as restaurant owners argued that the forced restrictions have deprived their businesses of hundreds of thousands of dollars and have no valid scientific support. Simply stated, this plan has not worked as businesses are losing money by the hour and the virus continues to spread in spite of the state’s reopening model.
Further, the governor seems to have finally acknowledged what others have said for months: the state’s businesses can’t continue under current conditions and a more widespread reopening is needed. What changed? COVID-19 hasn’t gone away, and it’s actually more prevalent now than it was during his strictest quarantine orders last March. It’s no surprise business owners must resort to court action for remediation; they’ve been deprived of their livelihoods for months only to watch the situation worsen. New York needs a consistent plan, one developed in conjunction with the state legislature and with respect to the needs of New Yorkers from each region of the state.
The Assembly Minority Conference has worked tirelessly to develop a blueprint to rebuild New York’s economy and strengthen our resilience for future crises. To that end, we developed “Jump-Start New York: A Plan for Economic Recovery,” a comprehensive plan designed specifically with the public’s health, economic well-being, and future in mind. Some of the proposals the conference is advocating include:
• Limiting the governor’s expanded powers and increasing local authority during future emergencies;
• Emplementing the “NY Business Emergency Relief Act of 2021;”
• Utilizing Regional Economic Development Councils for disaster recovery;
• Repurposing and utilizing capital programs;
• Implementing a 180-day “regulatory amnesty” period for small businesses;
• Establishing the Division of Regulatory Review & Economic Growth (DRREG);
• Providing a tax credit to landlords for any loss of rental income as a result of COVID-19;
• Increasing rural internet accessibility to ensure equality; and
• Supporting New York farmers and agricultural businesses to foster greater opportunities to move their products.
Done correctly, I am confident we can both protect the public and protect our economy. We will need to work together, as co-equal parts of government, and implement a holistic solution aimed at long-term viability. We are past the point of ad-hoc reactionism from the executive. Now is a time for cooperation, growth, and sustainability.
William (Will) A. Barclay, Republican, is the New York Assembly Minority Leader and represents the 120th New York Assembly District, which encompasses most of Oswego County, including the cities of Oswego and Fulton, as well as the town of Lysander in Onondaga County and town of Ellisburg in Jefferson County. Contact Barclay at firstname.lastname@example.org.