• March 31, 2020

Siekerka: Virus business impact to be wide-ranging - Ocean City Sentinel: News

Siekerka: Virus business impact to be wide-ranging

NJBIA president says it is right to have an overabundance of caution

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Posted: Tuesday, March 17, 2020 5:19 pm

OCEAN CITY – With the worldwide coronavirus pandemic spreading to the United States, the disease has affected businesses, from empty supermarket shelves to mom and pop shops.

Michele Siekerka, president and CEO of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association (NJBIA) addressed these potential impacts at the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce meeting on March 12.

 “We are taking an overabundance of caution,” Siekerka said. “I want to commend government right now with their approach on this. They’ve been very reserved. They are not screaming wolf. It is a very tempered message that is out there. They are not out causing panic like media is, unfortunately.” 

She said New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency March 9 over the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) after 11 people tested positive. 

Siekerka noted the experts advise limiting large crowds in small places. 

She said that the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) is examining gap funding for small businesses and manufacturing to help businesses affected by the pandemic.

“If people aren’t frequenting your small business establishments because people are either choosing to stay home or at some point told to stay home, we know the devastating impact that’s going to have,” Siekerka said.

New Jersey businesses are better prepared to handle COVID-19 than they were after Hurricane Sandy struck the state in 2012. 

Universities around the state have sent students home or are planning to offer online instruction in the next few weeks, which Siekerka said would negatively impact small businesses in college towns.  

“Think of all the businesses surrounding those communities who are counting on those students for their customers for the next couple of months,” Siekerka said. 

She advised businesses to examine their policies and communicate with their workforce in the weeks ahead.

 “We realize that if hours get limited because people aren’t frequenting, there are opportunities for folks to gain access to unemployment. If the people are diagnosed with the virus they are eligible for temporary disability,” Siekerka said. “The other best practice is your ability to work remotely. Professional services it’s much easier.” 

She suggested that businesses should check with their vendors for any contingency plans to continue to provide products and services.

Keeping facilities clean is also essential, according to Siekerka.

“You should also be prepared just in the background that if someone comes into your facility who happens to have the virus you want to go into a deeper type of cleaning. You want commercialized industrial cleaning. Only certain companies do that,” she said.

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