ALLAMUCHY, N.J. – As unemployment claims continue to mount by hundreds of thousands and economists warn that mandatory stay-at-home orders are pushing the economy into depression territory, Assemblyman Hal Wirths says it’s time for lawmakers to rethink the strategies in place.
“On one-hand a lot of lives have been saved, but on the other many more lives are being destroyed,” said Wirths (R-Sussex). “We just can’t afford to accept that the only way to keep people safe is by shutting down the economy for months. We have to put our heads together and come up with a strategy that allows people to work and make a living while simultaneously fighting the virus.”
Roughly twice as many jobs have been lost since the pandemic began than were gained since the worst point of the Great Recession due to the economic shutdown. It took the state about 8 years to regain jobs lost since the last economic downturn, one of the slowest recoveries in the nation.
New Jersey and six other states entered a multi-state partnership Monday that will examine how to reopen the economy safely once the coronavirus outbreak wanes, but Gov. Phil Murphy indicated Wednesday those efforts might not come to pass until July.
“People might not make it past this month financially let alone waiting until July,” said Wirths. “It remains to be seen if we are putting more lives at risk due to the expansive health effects of a depressed economy. It may be that the governor’s decisions were too ham-handed at a time that needed more precision. We will learn from the mistakes.”
Wirths has advocated consistently for measures to reopen certain businesses, such as golf courses, car dealerships and others that allow for safe distancing. Pennsylvania’s Republican-led legislature passed a bill allowing businesses to reopen if they follow CDC guidelines similar to what is being enforced for businesses currently deemed essential.