NJ businesses say they want a detailed timeline for reopening
On Wednesday, Gov. Phil Murphy announced that non-essential retailers could reopen for curbside pickup starting Monday at 6 a.m., signaling the beginning of the gradual reopening of New Jersey's economy.
A recent survey conducted by the New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants found that two-thirds of CPAs in the state felt their small business clients' recovery and restart would be helped most by an even more detailed timeline from state government with guideposts for reopening.
The secondary concern (47%) for clients was financial: issues such as deferring tax payments or extending deadlines.
"It's just not about going in and flipping on the light switch and then you're back in business," Ralph Albert Thomas, NJCPA CEO and executive director, said. "There's the whole issue about supply chains getting product in, in a timely basis."
Business owners need lead time, Thomas said, to plan their reopening strategies, just like the state is developing its own. They need to know not just when restrictions will be lifted, but even when they might.
"If they're open and maybe doing carryout only, that's a different model than if you're open to service people," he said. "What do you do to make sure that you meet the requirements of the CDC, or whatever's in an executive order about social distancing?"
Thomas said that more than 70% of the 305 CPAs surveyed reported that their clients estimated it would take them six to 12 months to recover from the coronavirus closures. About 1 out of every 8 clients (12%) felt they would not be able to recover at all, and would eventually close.
As far as those businesses are concerned, especially smaller small businesses, Thomas said some might have missed out on the initial rush to apply for the federal Paycheck Protection Program, before it was shut down in just four business days. That provided another complication to the decisions many owners had to make about furloughing employees.
These businesses, he said, are worried about liquidity, the ability to access loans and other funding to get their shops back up and running.
"They don't have the infrastructure of those larger businesses to be able to navigate through the PPP, and the economic development initiative," Thomas said.
The NJCPA is trying to assist the small business landscape during this time by keeping its members up-to-date, so they can properly advise their clients, and formulating recommendations to make to the Murphy administration.