One of the first sectors to reopen during the first phase is the construction industry — something Mike Elmendorf of the Associate General Contractors Association says is key to getting the economy moving again in New York.
“For every billion dollars you invest in non-residential construction, you support about 28,000 jobs directly and indirectly, you generate huge amounts of economic activity. So as we get the economy going again, the construction industry is the right place todo that,” said Elmendorf, the group’s president and CEO.
Construction, along with manufacturing and some retail businesses that can offer curbside pickup, are part of the first phase of reopening that’s starting Friday in 35 counties in New York.
Businesses that begin to open in phase one will have to follow safety guidelines like social distancing and wearing protective equipment — rules the construction sector is well accustomed to already.
“We’re used to working as an industry with dangerous conditions, pathogens, things like that,” Elemendorf said.
But there are concerns for businesses that enter the first phase when it comes not just to safety, but liability for when and if a person becomes COVID positive.
“You can do everything right, and you can’t guarantee that someone who works in your business and comes to your business isn’t going to get sick,” Elmendorf said.
Greg Biryla of the National Federation of Independent Business says there should be liability protections for businesses so they aren’t sued during the reopening phase.
“It could slow their ability; it could outright prevent it,” he said. “And that’s our biggest fear.”
And that could slow down any recovery for an economy that’s been stagnant for the last two months.
“They’re going to have additional safety protocols and other measures that they’re going to be following, and it’s all about managing risk,” Biryla said. “Unfortunately, if they don’t protect against frivolous lawsuits, many businesses are going to choose not to reopen.”