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State business leaders ask Gov. Evers for plan to reopen economy

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MADISON (WKOW) -- State business leaders are calling on the governor to put together a plan to kick start the economy once the "Safer at Home" order is lifted.

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce (WMC), along with 18 other statewide business associations and 33 local chambers of commerce, sent a letter to Governor Tony Evers asking the administration to start crafting a transition plan for businesses once his order is lifted on April 24.

Kurt Bauer, President and CEO of WMC, said he understands the economy won’t go back to “business as usual” right away, but believes reopening will require a strategic and planned approach to bring the economy back.

“Businesses can't just hit the power button and be back up and operating,” said Bauer. “They've got to contact their employees, suppliers, financial services and let their customers know that they're back up and operating.”

Wisconsin’s economy continues to suffer as the coronavirus pandemic and the governor's 'Safer at Home' order weighs on businesses who are forced to cut staff, scale back operations or shut down entirely.

“The governor has taken appropriate measures in order to protect lives in the state, but we also have to protect livelihoods. We have to take care of their families, we have to think about what happens next,” said Bauer.

Governor Evers' office did not immediately return a request for comment on the letter. On Friday, Evers was asked what it would look like when the state lifts it's 'Safer at Home' order.

"When that happens, it is unlikely it going to be today everyone is home, tomorrow everyone goes back to work. There isn't a scenario that I could see that would allow that to happen," Evers told reporters.

WMC is looking at other nations, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan to evaluate their reopening plans for Wisconsin to implement best practices going forward. Right now, no other states have a plan in place to transition businesses once the outbreak slows down, according to Bauer.

Bauer also said foot traffic at retail businesses is down more than 50%, and has fallen more than 75% at restaurants.

“We've never seen anything like this and (businesses) keep telling me that liquidity is the key to surviving this, but they're very nervous and they need a date when they can begin the process of restarting,” he said.

As roughly one in 10 workers nationwide have lost their jobs in the last three weeks, so too have a staggering number of Wisconsinites overloading the state's unemployment system, forcing officials to add staff to keep up.

Between March 15 and April 6, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development says it received more than 313,000 new applications for unemployment benefits. During the same time one year ago, the DWD got just about 1,800 new claims.

Emilee Fannon

Capital Bureau Chief

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