March 23, 2020

Businesses are facing new realities this week as many have been forced to lay off employees and shut down — at least temporarily — to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo claimed responsibility for that slowdown on Monday, and said economic recovery planning must start as soon as possible.

“I take full responsibility for shutting off the economy,” Cuomo said during a press conference Monday morning. “But we also have to plan the pivot back to economic functionality. You can’t stop the economy forever. So we have to start to think about, does everyone stay out of work?”

Cuomo floated some ideas for that pivot during the press conference, such as having young people — who appear to be less affected by the virus — go back to work sooner. Or having people who have recovered from COVID-19 — and probably have some immunity — go back to work.

The overall idea would be to isolate people vulnerable to the virus and allow others to restart the economy.

Cuomo said any plan would have to blend economic policy with public health policy.

“How do you restart, or transition to a restart of the economy, and how do you dovetail that with a public health strategy as you’re identifying people who’ve had the virus and resolved,” Cuomo said.

On Monday, the state Department of Labor said it received more than 1.7 million calls last week from New Yorkers filing unemployment insurance claims. And the department received over 2.2 million web hits last week.

Hugh Johnson said any recovery for New York businesses will have to include help from the federal government.  Johnson has helped thousands of clients survive downturns in his decades as a financial analyst. As chairman and chief investment officer of JNB Advisors LLC in Albany, Johnson’s commentary has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and other media outlets.

“We’ve never had anything like this before. I’ve looked back,” Johnson, who uses historical examples to predict future market conditions, said. “We haven’t, that I’ve known of, had it where it’s been so completely shut down. I haven’t seen it before.”

That makes planning for an economic recovery even more difficult.

Johnson said one of the keys during this time is to keep banks healthy so they can continue providing loans or liquidity to businesses.

“I’m on a board and we are currently trying to give moratoriums to businesses on their debt service payments,” Johnson said, without naming the financial institution. “That’s one example, one small anecdote of what’s needed and what’s important. We know these businesses need a break.”

The state has already started mandating some measures meant to help consumers weather the downturn and manage their debts.

As of Monday, New York state has more than half of the coronavirus cases reported in the U.S. The number of positive COVID-19 cases in New York was more than 20,000, with 157 deaths.

Cuomo has warned that those numbers will continue to rise, even with the harsh measures the state has taken.

“The economy we can fix,” Cuomo said during a press conference in New York City Monday afternoon. “You can’t remedy a loss of your health, you can’t remedy a loss of life.”