SPARTA, N.J. – Echoing constituent messages that all small businesses are essential to their owners and employees, Assemblyman Parker Space, a Republican, was joined with Branchville Mayor Tony Frato, a Democrat, in a call to responsibly and safely reopen New Jersey.
 
They are advocating for struggling small businesses and the more than one million New Jerseyans who have filed for unemployment.
 
“Many small businesses and their trade groups have put together plans to safely and responsibly reopen, but their pleas are falling on deaf ears in Trenton,” said Space (R-Sussex).  “It is why I signed on to the ‘Healthy Citizens and Healthy Business Act’ to allow non-essential businesses to reopen providing they comply with safety protocols.”
 

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Under the bill, A-3976, businesses would need to comply with all rules and regulations from the New Jersey Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Space and Frato want specific protections for individuals who are in the CDC high-risk category or have a member of their immediate household in the high-risk category.
 
Mayor Frato said the bill is the right way forward, but even if it is never passed, it doesn’t prevent Gov. Phil Murphy from taking swift action to open up the state.


 
“Branchville has close to fifty businesses in its borders and many of them are suffering,” said Frato, a Democrat.  “Small towns like mine are the fabric of American life and allowing those little businesses which are our lifeblood remain closed even if they can responsibly and safely open is an abomination.”
 
Many of New Jersey’s businesses were deemed non-essential and mandated to close or significantly cut back operations by executive order. A specific reopening plan has been abdicated to unelected commissions. Businesses that have not closed are asking to know soon so they can prepare to open.
 
“New Jersey is one of the hardest places to survive as a small business as it is and the coronavirus is now making it near impossible. It’s hard for people to grasp what it takes to own a business that you put your heart and soul into only to have an uncertain future,” explained Space. “Our businesses should have the opportunity to follow safety guidelines in these trying times and still be allowed open. I believe it’s far safer to venture into a small business than walk through the grocery store or a big box store.”


 
Mayor Frato also provided assurances for those who are more susceptible to COVID-19 or who wish to remain sheltered-in-place.
 
“No one wants to force the elderly or those with pre-existing medical conditions to participate in commerce once reopening starts. Let’s not defy common sense here,” said Frato.  “But those who can operate a business safely or who can work safely or who want to participate in commerce safely should not be denied that right before we make such a wreck of things that we create a depression that could last for decades, long after the pandemic is over.”