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Chamber pushes plan for reopening economy

Chamber pushes plan for reopening economy
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The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is pushing its own framework to reopen the economy and get Americans back to work.

The plan from the business lobby highlights a number of considerations, including measures to keep workers safe, resolve regulatory and legal liability issues, and support businesses and individuals through a proposed phased reopening.

The Chamber devised its plan, known as the “Path Forward” program, after hearing from its membership of companies and state, local and international chambers and associations through more than 200 recent virtual sessions. 

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“We got a real sense from the businesses on the ground of what it’s going to take for them to reopen. What their questions are, what their concerns are, and also what their ideas are. We have some businesses that never closed so what can we learn from their experience,” Chamber President Suzanne Clark told The Hill in an interview on Wednesday.

Clark noted that there has to be coordination and communication at all levels for the reopening to work.

“What gets lost in some of the bickering is it takes the best medical minds, but also the best business and government minds because no one has ever faced this before,” she said. 

“The resiliency of the American people who said OK, we’ll stay home. And the resiliency of business leaders to say, OK we can innovate. And the resiliency of government leaders to say, OK we can coordinate, has really been a positive and we may come out of this with new muscle memory that helps us solve other problems,” she added.

The Chamber's proposals for keeping workers safe include calls to provide resources like health screenings, coronavirus testing, personal protective equipment, child care and transportation.

“The question now for employers is what do they have to do to get ready? Those fall into buckets of what equipment might they need, what training might they need, but also just best practices and that’s part of listening to the essential businesses that have been working,” Clark said. “What worked, what didn’t, what can companies prepare for?”

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In terms of regulatory and legal liability issues, businesses have to consider health privacy, discrimination claims, safe workplace requirements, and other workplace claims.

“If you’re CEO who’s used to doing things a certain way and has in fact over the years been trained not to discriminate on the basis of health and age and been careful about privacy issues and health privacy issues, what are we now asking people to do in terms of privacy?” Clark said.

The Trump administration’s draft plan for reopening the economy also calls for a phased reopening and Trump’s list of advisers on his plan include trade group chiefs like Jay Timmons of the National Association of Manufacturers and Matthew Shay of the National Retail Federation.

The Chamber also supports a phased reopening, similar to Trump’s approach, determined by public health officials and by customer demand.

“This isn’t going to go from a red light to a green light. This is going to go from a red light to a yellow light — a proceed with cautious light,” Clark said.

"We expect that we still have social distancing guidelines for quite some time. You can imagine businesses operating in an entirely new way," she said.