Delaware to join regional council on reopening business
DOVER – As New York reported that it was seeing its number of positive coronavirus cases plateau, Gov. John Carney joined five of his colleagues in the Northeast to announce that they were forming a multi-state council to determine how and when to reopen their states’ economies.
The council, spearheaded by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, will also be joined by Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut and Rhode Island along with Delaware – all states that are linked by Interstate 95 and Amtrak. After the coalition’s announcement, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker agreed to add his state to the pact. Cuomo noted that the group is talking with more states, so the geographic reach may continue to expand.
Notably, Carney, Cuomo, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont and Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo are all Democrats. Only Baker is a Republican with Maryland, the most notable adjoining state not currently involved, also led by a Republican, Gov. Larry Hogan.
The group will consist of a public health leader and an economic development leader from each state as well as each governor’s chief of staff, totaling 18 people. Delaware’s representatives include Delaware Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker, Delaware Prosperity Partnership President & CEO Kurt Foreman and Carney’s chief of staff, Sheila Grant, a governor’s office spokesman confirmed.
Cuomo said that the group would begin its work on Tuesday and that the reopening “has to happen within weeks.” Among other issues, the group will reportedly study data from foreign countries that have already reopened their economies and develop guidelines and parameters to guide the efforts to reopen.
Lamont, of Connecticut, said that it was imperative that the region learn from other cases and not “pull the trigger too early” in reopening their societies.
“I’m looking over in Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore, and those places are unfortunately seeing a small resurgence, the second half of the ‘V’ coming back again, and that would be so demoralizing for our economy,” he said.
Cuomo said he hopes the council can reach a consensus on steps to reopen society, such as reopening schools and child care before reopening business. If they cannot, however, he said the effort would at least inform each state about what their neighbors intended to do.
Carney has already been preparing for the eventual reopening of Delaware’s economy, tasking former gubernatorial chiefs of staff Thomas McGonigle and Douglas Gramiak with compiling ideas on how the state could aid recovery efforts.
“We’re experiencing unchartered waters here, and I think ahead of us will be more unchartered waters,” Carney said referring to the eventual economic recovery in a Monday conference call announcing the council. “By working together we will do a better job for the people that we work for and we’ll make smart decisions.”
Despite the positive health news out of New York, the hardest hit area in the U.S. outbreak, Carney stressed that Delaware has not yet seen its peak in coronavirus cases, which is expected later this week. He emphasized that residents should continue to abide by the state of emergency declaration and observe social distancing guidelines while in public for approved activities.
“I heard Gov. Murphy say yesterday that we need to get the patient healthy before we can get the economy healthy, and I think he’s exactly right,” Carney said.
On Monday afternoon, Foreman told Delaware Business Times that he’s been in contact with Carney’s team throughout the crisis and sharing survey results from employers as to the impact on their businesses. While he said he didn’t know all of his colleagues from the other states, and who exactly the 18 officials would be wasn’t entirely apparent Monday, Foreman said he expected to be caught up to speed quickly.
He agreed that the recovery effort will take a lot of officials from the health and business worlds across the region working together to pull off successfully.
“I often think of a picture of Spock playing three-level chess and I think that this is a perfect example, where there are lots of layers to what has to happen and be considered,” he added.
In talking with Delaware business owners and large employers, Foreman said it’s no surprise that smaller businesses have fewer resources to survive a prolonged closure. He’s been encouraging them to take advantage of Small Business Administration loan programs, some of which are forgivable, to help tide them over. Foreman added that he was encouraged by reports that supply chains are holding up well, however, meaning businesses may be able to restart faster once able.
In some positive news, Foreman said that some of the DPP’s investment and job projects were continuing to move forward despite the economic disruption.
“Maybe I’m optimistic. It may take us a while, but I think there are good things ahead of Delaware,” he said.
By Jacob Owens