Journal Times editorial: State should start plan to reopen April 24
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Journal Times editorial: State should start plan to reopen April 24

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Gov. Tony Evers’ Safer at Home order shutting down all but essential business expires April 24. It should not be extended.

Instead, what should happen is that businesses begin to reopen throughout this great state.

What we need is a plan, and the state’s business community asked Evers for just that in a letter sent Thursday by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (WMC) and signed by 18 other statewide business associations and 33 local chambers of commerce.

The letter pointed out that nearly 300,000 unemployment claims were filed in March alone, and the state’s unemployment rate is estimated to be over 13% — the highest in recorded history.

Earlier in the day, a projection of 27% unemployment was made by Dennis Winters, chief economist with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.

A year ago the state’s unemployment was 2.5%. In the worst of times, during the Great Recession in early 2010, it was a little over 10%. We are shut down — and many Wisconsinites are struggling — because of a hidden virus that has taken over the world. The headlines tell of a skyrocketing death rate in the U.S. and other countries and a need to stay at home and social distance with no end in sight.

While we understand the threat of the coronavirus and the importance of public health, we watch the numbers every day. And in Wisconsin, those numbers should not require a continued lid on the economy. We understand there are at-risk people and that this is highly contagious and symptoms should keep you home. But we can collectively get back to work and those workers and residents can take further care.

It should happen in stages, but what’s needed is a plan.

“Restarting our economy will not happen overnight, and it likely will not be all at once,” said Kurt Bauer, WMC president and CEO. “That is why the business community and Gov. Evers need to work together on a plan that determines what industries and what areas of Wisconsin can open safely, along with a timeline.”

The letter calls on policy makers to recognize that many businesses cannot simply restart operations on short notice. Employers must have time to recall furloughed workers, make new hires, restock supplies and raw materials, and re-engage their supply and distribution chains. It will be a process, and it should start the last week in April. And local government leaders should not extend closures beyond the state. Locally, business leaders expressed serious concerns if the governor’s order is extended.

“Every day past the 24th will take a toll,” said Lou Molitor, president and CEO of the Kenosha County Chamber of Commerce that has more than 700 members. “I’m concerned that a lot of small businesses would be struggling.”

And Matt Montemurro, president and CEO of RAMAC, the Racine Area Manufacturers and Commerce, said Racine County could lose some businesses if the order is extended. “A longer closure is going to be devastating,” he said.

Nationally, the view is that the economy should reopen region by region. In our region Wisconsin should take the lead. It’s time for working together, for a plan. Our financial future, and our mental and physical health, depend on it.

While we understand the threat of the coronavirus and the importance of public health, we watch the numbers every day. And in Wisconsin, those numbers should not require a continued lid on the economy.

While we understand the threat of the coronavirus and the importance of public health, we watch the numbers every day. And in Wisconsin, those numbers should not require a continued lid on the economy.

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