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Delaware seeks small business input on reopening economy

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Gov. John Carney addresses the economic recovery of the state in an April 21 press conference in Wilmington. | DBT PHOTO BY JACOB OWENS

WILMINGTON — Gov. John Carney on Thursday announced that state officials will host a series of public input sessions focused on reopening Delaware’s economy and aiding the recovery of the state’s businesses.

The Delaware Division of Small Business and the Delaware Prosperity Partnership will host the virtual Recovery Town Halls with members of the General Assembly, small businesses, and local chambers of commerce to begin collecting feedback from small business leaders about Delaware’s economic reopening. Seven sessions for those leaders will be held from April 27 to May 6, and are broken up by geographic area.

To participate, business owners are asked to contact their local legislators.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long will host four similar virtual town halls to collect feedback from the general public. Those sessions are scheduled from April 29 to May 7.

Meanwhile, the state has created a dedicated website for information on the recovery efforts at  de.gov/economy. Those who are not able to attend one of the online sessions can provide feedback directly through the website.

 Carney also announce that he has assigned rapid response teams from state government to work with industries most hard-hit by the COVID-19 crisis, including the restaurant industry, tourism, retail, and the arts community. 

“We’re still seeing increased infections of COVID-19, so this fight is far from over,” Carney said in a statement announcing the town halls. “At the same time, we need to look forward. We need to plan for safely reopening our economy under a new normal. I encourage all Delawareans and Delaware small businesses to lean into this process.”

House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, Senate President Pro Tempore David McBride, House Minority Leader Danny Short and Senate Minority Leader Gerald Hocker all offered statements of support to the idea in the announcement from the governor’s office.

Kurt Foreman, president and CEO of the state’s economy development agency, Delaware Prosperity Partnership, said in a statement that to “safely and successfully reopen businesses throughout Delaware requires us to listen to the experiences, ideas and opportunities employers and businesses have.”

“Hearing directly from CEOs, owners and site and operations leaders will not only help us to have a successful Phase 1 launch, but may also lead to new opportunities,” said Foreman, who is one of the state’s three appointed members to the Northeast council states discussing how to mutually reopen their economies.

The governor’s announcement comes as other Southern states are beginning to reopen their economies. When asked April 21 by Delaware Business Times whether he would feel increasing pressure to loosen societal restrictions as other states began to do so, Carney said, “Absolutely.”

“But we need a healthy community before we can start reopening the economy,” he said. “I don’t want to open the economy one day too soon, and I don’t want to delay a day longer if I can avoid it.”

While states like South Carolina and Georgia have begun to reopen businesses despite U.S. Centers for Disease Control and White House guidance to wait longer, Carney said that “that’s not going to happen here if I have anything to do with it.” He said that those calling for the economy to reopen and those advising to protect public health had valid concerns, but his administration would have to try to “thread the needle” between the two sides.

Carney noted that he recently spoke to a business executive who has an operation in Singapore, which reopened its economy after a short decline in COVID-19 cases only to see the cases spike back up and forcing a second economic closure.

“I’d like to avoid that if I can,” he said.

The CDC guidance advises that states gradually reopen businesses, waiting for 14-day periods between delineated steps to ensure that a spike in news cases does not occur. A dramatic increase in available tests will also be needed. Carney told the public that he was hopeful that some semblance of normalcy may return by Memorial Day but conceded that “a lot of things have to fall in our favor to get there.”

Small Business Town Halls

  • Monday, April 27 – 2 p.m. – Eastern Sussex
  • Tuesday, April 28 – 6 p.m. – Southern New Castle
  • Thursday, April 30 – 10 a.m. – Western Sussex
  • Thursday, April 30 – 6 p.m. – Newark Area
  • Monday, May 4 – 2 p.m. – Kent County
  • Tuesday, May 5 – 6 p.m. – Wilmington Area 
  • Wednesday, May 6 – 6 p.m. – Northern New Castle County

 Public Town Halls

  • Wednesday, April 29 – 6 p.m. – Kent County 
  • Monday, May 4 – 6 p.m. – Northern New Castle County
  • Wednesday, May 6 – 7:30 p.m. – Sussex County 
  • Thursday, May 7 – 6 p.m. – Southern New Castle County

By Jacob Owens

[email protected]

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