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sions about going out for the day or just going to a restaurant or retail shop, creating confi- dence is the key,” Szynal said. “And focusing on those [infection] numbers is really critical. That’s really how we’ll build confidence. Some people will take a little longer than others because they have different health concerns. But I think, if we can stay the course, we’ll be heading in the right
“What makes this whole situation unique — and a little bit mystifying for employers — is that the economic situation is still being driven by
a public-health situation,” said Chris Geehern, AIM’s executive vice president of Public Affairs and Communications. “Typically in an economic downturn, business people know exactly what to do. Now, it’s wholly dependent on what the daily
they’ve had to make some changes, and they’ve had some struggles. People don’t expect those struggles to end instantly. But people are pretty optimistic for the long term.”
Again, that likely depends in part on the pub- lic-health data remaining on a positive track.
“Employers are encouraged that Massachu- setts has been able to moderate the number of new COVID-19 cases. We have said all along that the current economic crisis is being driven by the public-health crisis, and that’s what we see here,” Raymond Torto, chair of AIM’s Board of Economic Advisors, noted in the latest business- confidence report.
AIM President and CEO John Regan added that Baker’s deliberate, four-phase plan has so far been an effective way to reopen the state econo- my in a safe and efficient manner.
“We realize that every employer in Massa- chusetts would love to hear that they can reopen immediately. But we also acknowledge that a phased reopening balances the need to restart the economy with the need to manage a public- health crisis that continues to claim many lives
a day in Massachusetts,” Regan said, adding that employers, “will in many cases need to reconfig- ure workplaces for social distancing and deter- mine how to implement other safety measures, such as the wearing of protective equipment, continuing work-from-home policies, and ensur- ing the health of workers and customers.”
While AIM employers have been satisfied with the pace of the rollout, Geehern told Business- West, there was some frustration early on, partic- ularly in the retail, restaurant, leisure, and hospi- tality sectors, which weren’t included in phase 1. “Some thought we should be moving faster. To be
“Typically in an economic downturn, business people know exactly what to do. Now, it’s wholly dependent on what the daily numbers are from the state and nationally. I think that’s been a big challenge.”
numbers are from the state and nationally. I think that’s been a big challenge.”
That said, he told Busi- nessWest, “our members have been satisfied with the state process. It has certainly been a challenge to meet
all the requirements, but
for most employers, the big issue isn’t what the govern- ment tells you to do, but what you know you have to do to ensure that employees, vendors, and customers feel comfortable coming in. It’s
 direction economically as well as from a public- health standpoint.”
Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) polls its 3,500 members each month to produce a Business Confidence Index that was firmly entrenched in positive territory for years — until it suffered the largest one-time decline in its his- tory a couple months ago. However, it began to rebound slightly last month as Baker announced the four-phase process for re-opening the state economy under strict workplace-safety guide- lines, and in the report due this week, it’s expect- ed to creep up again amid positive news regard- ing infection rates.
going to be a slow recovery whether the govern- ment requires these steps or not because people won’t come to your restaurant if you haven’t taken the appropriate safety steps.”
Growing Optimism
Employers hope a timely return to business will allow them to re-hire some of the 1.2 mil- lion Massachusetts residents who have filed for unemployment since the onset of the pandemic.
“From a broad perspective, I’m not getting a super pessimistic view from anyone I’ve spoken to,” Szynal said. “Certain people are concerned —
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