COVID 19 Updates

Back-to-Work Plans & Frameworks

Will Burns on Friday, April 24, 2020 at 12:00:00 am

As states begin to announce timelines for relaxing stay-at-home and business closure orders to restart the economy and get people back to work, chambers of commerce are playing a crucial role in helping to navigate the many challenges their regions will face.

From coordinating or participating on restart task forces, to developing frameworks and plans for kickstarting the economy in a safe and responsible manner, here are a few trends we’ve seen in plans that have been released so far:

Health and Safety at the Center

The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce (MMAC) plan leverages the Key Health and Safety Indicator Dashboard created by the Medical College of Wisconsin, which provides real-time metrics to support informed decision making.

“This dashboard will provide the basis for reengaging the region’s economy, while helping ensure that we not take an unwanted pitstop,” said MMAC President Tim Sheehy. “There will be flare-ups in the future. Being prepared to handle them is the best way to keep the economy running.”

The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’s RESTART Task Force also engaged a subset of leaders from the region’s medical systems to develop its Principles of a Responsible Return to inform the actions of state and local leaders.

Key tenants of restart plans include:

  • Increasing testing and tracing capacity
  • Ensuring adequate hospital capacity to treat patients requiring hospitalization
  • Boosting your region’s supplies of personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies needed for businesses to reopen safely
  • Protecting vulnerable populations

A Phased Approach to Reopening

Keeping the health care considerations in mind, and clearly understanding that communities are going to have to be ready to respond to new flare-ups of COVID-19, many restart plans focus on a gradual approach to reopening.

In Louisiana, nearly 50 organizations endorsed a framework for restarting the economy in phases.

“It is our hope that this framework provides a solid starting point for individual businesses and governmental leaders to make decisions on how and when to safely open more of the state’s economy,” said Adam Knapp, president and CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber. “We know that it is vitally important to be smart under the new normal that we find ourselves in, and that with careful planning and collaboration, we can safely and effectively return businesses to commerce, employees to work and our economy to stable footing. 

The plan calls for a three-phase approach to getting people back to work:

  1. Maximize employment in all current essential sectors, like health care, construction, transportation, retail and more
  2. Expand reopened sectors, like restaurants, salons, fitness centers, recreational and cultural centers
  3. Embrace a new normal across all sectors, to enable the economy to operate in an ongoing manner, as safely as possible, boosting business operations as public health benchmarks are met

Throughout these phases, effective communication and business support will be crucial. Chambers of commerce are positioned to play a community leadership role in this area. Here are a few examples:

Many Challenges Remain

As states begin to ramp up their restart plans, many challenges remain. It is crucial that chambers are active participants in efforts to address these challenges, and the U.S. Chamber has provided a great starting point in its Implementing a National Return to Work Plan.

  • Access to Child Care: With school closures and social distancing requirements, how can we phase in additional access to child care? Communities across the country are facing challenges providing child care to essential workers. Creative solutions and financial assistance to providers will be required to meet the growing demand as residents get back to work.
  • Public Transportation: Millions of Americans rely on public transportation for their daily commute. Social distancing requirements make public transportation systems less efficient and impact their ability service levels.
  • Regulatory and Legal Liability Issues: A wide array of challenges remain around legal liability issues, from exposure liability and safe workplace requirements, to the potential for discrimination claims and health privacy concerns.

We Want to Hear from You

What steps has your chamber taken to help your community get back to work? Send your examples to Will Burns at

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Tags: Restart

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