Hochul: Businesses should come up with plan to re-open, but won’t have to get that plan approved

Local News

AMHERST, N.Y. (WIVB) – On a Zoom call with about 250 small business owners in Erie County Wednesday, Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul said they won’t have to submit their plans for re-opening to the state for approval.

“That was unclear for a little while as we were trying to develop this,” said Hochul, who is in charge of Western New York’s re-opening strategy. “The answer is no.”

Non-essential businesses across New York State were shut down in March as the number of coronavirus cases across the state increased. Governor Andrew Cuomo has said they will open on a regional basis, only after the region has met seven metrics. The Western New York region, which includes Erie, Niagara, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, and Allegany Counties, has only met five of the seven.

Once the region does meet the seven metrics, businesses will re-open in four phases. The first phase includes manufacturing, construction, and will allow retail stores to establish curb-side pickup.

The state has said before they do open, businesses will be required to come up with a plan which enacts social distancing protocols. Hochul said while they won’t be required to submit those plans to the state, business owners should document them.

“Make sure that’s all in writing,” Hochul suggested. “If you’re a business that is public-facing and people walk into your establishment, I would have that right on your window. I would put it out there so they have confidence you are following the state guidelines.

“It is too cumbersome for every plan to be approved, but have a plan.”

The call was organized by several chambers of commerce across Erie County, and moderated by Amherst Chamber of Commerce President and CEO A.J. Baynes.

Ashley Draper, the owner of Jada Blitz Fitness in Clarence, was on the Zoom call with Hochul. She just moved into an expanded 30,000 square foot facility in November.

“We know of the phases that we rolled out by New York State to re-open,” Draper said. “Still, there is no answer as to where gyms fall in.”

If she was hoping Hochul to tell her Wednesday, she would have walked away disappointed.

“That has not been determined yet,” Hochul said in response to a question from Baynes about where fitness centers, spas, barber shops, and hair salons fall.

The Finger Lakes region, which includes Orleans, Genesee, and Wyoming Counties, is eligible to implement “Phase One” of the re-opening plan on Friday. That region has met all seven metrics established by New York State.

Chris Horvatits is an award-winning anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of his work here.

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