Busi­ness, union lead­ers com­bine to steer state’s eco­nomic re­cov­ery

Times Standard (Eureka) - - BUSI­NESS - By Nigel Duara CalMat­ters

Cal­i­for­nia aims to help busi­nesses shut­tered by the coro­n­avirus pan­demic by as­sist­ing them with in­ven­tory prob­lems and credit card debt they’ve amassed. Those are among the ideas to be con­sid­ered by a new, 80-mem­ber task force that Gov. Gavin New­som cre­ated Fri­day to guide the state’s eco­nomic re­open­ing and re­cov­ery.

Co-chaired by for­mer pres­i­den­tial can­di­date and busi­ness­man Tom Steyer, the task force in­cludes many A-list busi­ness lead­ers from a broad spec­trum of sec­tors—from re­tail to restau­rants and from air­lines to util­i­ties. Mem­bers in­clude Walt Dis­ney Co. Ex­ec­u­tive Chair­man Bob Iger, For­mer Fed­eral Re­serve Chair Janet Yellen, Patag­o­nia CEO and Pres­i­dent Rose Mar­cario, Ap­ple CEO Tim Cook, Home­boy In­dus­tries founder Fa­ther Gre­gory Boyle, Los An­ge­les Times owner Dr. Pa­trick Soon-Shiong, Gap, Inc. CEO Sonia Syn­gal, Los An­ge­les Clip­pers Pres­i­dent Gil­lian Zucker and LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner.

Also in­cluded are lead­ers of 10 la­bor unions, in­clud­ing United Farm Work­ers Pres­i­dent Teresa Romero, United Food and Com­mer­cial Work­ers, Lo­cal 770 Pres­i­dent John Grant and Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of State, County and Mu­nic­i­pal Em­ploy­ees pres­i­dent Lee Saun­ders.

The four liv­ing Cal­i­for­nia gov­er­nors also are mem­bers of the Gov­er­nor’s Task Force on Busi­ness and Jobs Re­cov­ery — Repub­li­cans Arnold Sch­warzeneg­ger and Pete Wil­son, and Democrats Gray Davis and Jerry Brown.

“We want to make this ac­tion­able, we want to make this mean­ing­ful,” New­som said. “This is not some­thing where in six months I’m look­ing for­ward to giv­ing you a draft or putting out a long, thick re­port. We want in real time to demon­strate mean­ing­ful re­forms, mean­ing­ful changes.”

Cal­i­for­nia’s eco­nomic en­gine was hum­ming along un­til it took a mas­sive hit last month, along with the rest of the global econ­omy, as busi­nesses closed down to stem the spread of the virus. Cal­i­for­nia lost nearly 100,000 jobs in March, shat­ter­ing a 10-year long con­tin­u­ous pe­riod of job growth.

New­som said 3.1 mil­lion peo­ple have filed for un­em­ploy­ment since March 12, and the state’s un­em­ploy­ment rate for that month is now 5.6 per­cent—a fig­ure that hasn’t taken into ac­count the job losses in­curred in April.

“We are now in a pan­demic-in­duced re­ces­sion in the state of Cal­i­for­nia,” he said.

The task force is the state’s first step to­ward a com­pre­hen­sive plan for re­open­ing busi­nesses, but de­tails of its fo­cus were spare at Fri­day’s press con­fer­ence and en­su­ing in­ter­views. Steyer will co-chair the task force with New­som’s Chief of Staff Ann O’Leary. Most of the mem­bers re­side in Cal­i­for­nia.

Steyer’s spokesman, Ben­jamin Gerdes, said in a press re­lease that the task force will de­liver rec­om­men­da­tions to New­som con­cern­ing three time­frames: a short-term set of rec­om­men­da­tions to cover the 60 days af­ter the task force was ap­pointed; a se­cond set of rec­om­men­da­tions for the rest of the year; and a third set aimed at the long-term be­yond 2020.

“In the com­ing weeks and months, we will bring to­gether the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors, out­side ex­perts, or­ga­nized la­bor, en­vi­ron­men­tal groups and ac­tivists to de­velop rec­om­men­da­tions for a re­cov­ery plan that works for all Cal­i­for­ni­ans, with an em­pha­sis on those com­mu­ni­ties hard­est hit by the pan­demic,” Steyer said in a press re­lease.

New­som’s se­lec­tion of Steyer to chair the task force drew an im­me­di­ate re­buke from Assem­bly­man Kevin Ki­ley, a Sacra­men­toarea Repub­li­can.

“We need a uni­fy­ing non­par­ti­san fig­ure to lead our eco­nomic re­cov­ery,” Ki­ley tweeted. “By anoint­ing Cal­i­for­nia’s big­gest po­lit­i­cal donor, bil­lion­aire Tom Steyer, it’s hard to imag­ine @Gav­inNew­som more wildly miss­ing the mark.”

Jac­que­line Re­ses, a task force mem­ber and head of Square Cap­i­tal, said time is run­ning short for small busi­nesses wait­ing to re­open.

“The typ­i­cal small busi­ness typ­i­cally only has 30 days of cash-on-hand. To­day marks day 29 of Cal­i­for­nia’s stay-at-home [or­der],” Re­ses said. To al­le­vi­ate the bur­den on those busi­nesses, Re­ses said the state will pri­or­i­tize their im­me­di­ate needs: Re­stock­ing their shelves, telling cus­tomers what they have for sale and help­ing with credit card debt they used to stay afloat dur­ing clo­sures or sig­nif­i­cantly re­duced hours.

“They need to let the cus­tomers know when are they open, what’s for sale. They need to man­age their in­ven­tory and keep the shelves stocked,” Re­ses said. “We need to think across the broad spec­trum of needs, many of which are new.”

Task force mem­bers said Cal­i­for­nia can’t do it alone; they will need fed­eral help. Re­ses said the fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s Pay­check Pro­tec­tion Pro­gram needs to be ex­panded. The pro­gram of­fered $349 bil­lion in for­giv­able loans, and that well has al­ready run dry.

“We need a uni­fy­ing non­par­ti­san fig­ure to lead our eco­nomic re­cov­ery. By anoint­ing Cal­i­for­nia’s big­gest po­lit­i­cal donor, bil­lion­aire Tom Steyer, it’s hard to imag­ine [Gavin New­som] more wildly miss­ing the mark.” — Kevin Ki­ley

“Congress and the ad­min­is­tra­tion must go fur­ther,” Re­ses said. “Our small­est busi­nesses were un­der­rep­re­sented in the first wave of PPP fund­ing.”

On a day when Pres­i­dent Trump sup­ported pro­test­ers in fa­vor of re­open­ing busi­nesses across the coun­try de­spite state-is­sued shel­ter-in-place or­ders, New­som said it’s too soon to ad­dress when Cal­i­for­ni­ans can at­tempt to re­gain their lives out­side their homes again.“The worst mis­take

we can make ... is to pull back right be­fore we’re at a point where we can start tog­gling back,” New­som said.

New­som said the swift­mov­ing na­ture of the pan­demic and the eco­nomic dev­as­ta­tion it has wrought wedged a lot of his­tory into a few short weeks.

“It’s been said that there are decades when noth­ing hap­pens,” New­som said, “and there are [weeks] that decades hap­pen.”

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