May 28, 2020
The Honorable Phil Murphy
Governor of New Jersey
Office of the Governor
PO Box 001
Trenton, NJ 08625
Dear Governor Murphy:
On behalf of the Greater Atlantic City Chamber, we thank you for your continued leadership during the current COVID-19 pandemic. The “Road Back: Restoring Economic Health through Public Health” has outlined a helpful multi-stage plan that makes public health a priority, as it should be. Atlantic County is seeing signs that we can begin to reopen small businesses while adhering to best practice guideline set forth by government agencies and industry associations.
New confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Atlantic County have increased by an average of only 1.83% over the day prior dating back to May 9. A significant improvement over any time since testing options became more prevalent. The two primary healthcare facilities in our region are in good position to treat additional patients should a surge occur. These are encouraging signs that we urge you to heavily consider as we move forward with not just reopening our economy but sustaining the economy and living during the pandemic.
Atlantic County’s long-term care facilities, like many others, make up a significant portion of the total number of COVID-19 cases. In fact, 38% of the total COVID-19 cases are causally related to residents and staff at these facilities. An additional 8% of cases come from the single psychiatric hospital in Atlantic County. The combination of congregate living spaces and compromised immune systems are two fatal factors for those who contract the virus. As devastating and saddening as this is, we must take this isolated data into consideration as we move from phase to phase.
We believe small businesses can and will implement best practices consistent with health guidelines to protect their employees and customers. The New Jersey Business and Industry Association conducted a survey in late April showing 70% of the 1,359 businesses surveyed were confident in their ability to operate safely under CDC social distancing guidelines. These are the same guidelines implemented by already opened big box stores. It is also far easier for a small business to enforce social distancing, use of face masks, and sanitation protocols due to the smaller number of customers and employees. It is impossible for a closed small business owner to compete with a big box store and the data tells us the catastrophic impact.
We conducted an Atlantic County COVID-19 Business Impact study that surveyed 607 businesses over a two-week period that concluded on May 8. The complete results are attached. The survey showed the following:
- 57% of the businesses surveyed have less than nine employees,
- 89% of the businesses surveyed were negatively impacted,
- 59% of businesses surveyed made staffing adjustments,
- 49% of the businesses surveyed will have exhausted their cash funds within four weeks.
The foundation of Atlantic County is our small businesses. Now more than ever, we need to support them and strengthen our economy by putting employees back to work. The survey provides data that illustrates the sense of urgency needed to expedite the safe reopening of small businesses while adhering to critical health and safety guidelines set forth by government agencies and reputable industry associations.
We ask for your assistance and partnership to implement a safe, responsible, sustainable, and timely reopening of Atlantic County small businesses. Restoring economic activity in our region is vital on a local and state level. The devastating consequences of not taking swift action to reopen our seasonal economy could be irreversible.
Greater Atlantic City Chamber