WILMINGTON – Gov. John Carney tackled infrastructure, coronavirus vaccinations, federal funding, paid leave and other key issues for Delaware businesses as he looked ahead to 2022 during a New Castle […]
[caption id="attachment_218051" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] Gov. John Carney discusses what his administration is doing to help build up the state's workforce, during a Dec. 3 New Castle County Chamber of Commerce luncheon. | DBT PHOTO BY TAYLOR GOEBEL[/caption]
WILMINGTON – Gov. John Carney tackled infrastructure, coronavirus vaccinations, federal funding, paid leave and other key issues for Delaware businesses as he looked ahead to 2022 during a New Castle County Chamber of Commerce luncheon Friday at the Hotel du Pont.“We learned over the last two years how important the chambers (of commerce) are in representing businesses as we struggled to beat COVID-19 and make sure we didn't miss a way to keep our economy going and strong,” Carney told the audience of private and public sector leaders.Carney said he is now focused on distributing funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, which allocated $925 million to Delaware for one-time projects. The governor has earmarked a $110 million investment to cover “every last mile of Delaware'' with high-speed broadband internet service, funds for significant infrastructure projects, and a $50 million investment in workforce development. The latter will expand the Forward Delaware jobs-training program for industries significantly impacted by the pandemic and provide more work experience services for students.Carney also touched on a landmark paid leave bill that could be considered next year when the 151st General Assembly resumes. Senate Bill 1, sponsored by State Sen. Sarah McBride (D-Wilmington), would require employers to provide up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave through a state social insurance program.“It's got a lot of support,” Carney said of the measure. “When we think about the workforce challenges that we have, what are the things that we need to do to attract people to our state and enter the businesses here?”He added he had “significant concerns” with SB1 regarding the impact on smaller businesses though.As Delaware approaches the two-year mark of its first coronavirus case and subsequent state of emergency that shut down thousands of businesses, Carney reflected on how the state was able to balance “the health of the community with the strength of the economy” during the pandemic.That balance included allowing outdoor dining, curbside pickup, and selling alcohol to go.“My job was to kind of referee the public advice we're getting with the demands that all of you were putting on us, recognizing that your businesses were at stake,” Carney said.Delaware has done “pretty well” in getting residents vaccinated in comparison to other states, with 85% of adults having gotten at least one dose, though only 61% of all Delawareans are fully vaccinated.During the pandemic, about $200 million in Delaware relief grants went to 3,000 small businesses and nonprofits to assist with operating costs. Delaware also used $233 million in federal funds to replenish its unemployment insurance trust fund, which Carney said saved small businesses from a tax increase.Finding employees is “the biggest issue right now for business in our state and across the country,” Carney said, especially in the hospitality industry and with needed construction and engineering projects across the state.“We've got to focus on how we can provide better opportunities for folks to come work for us and stay,” Carney said.