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Chamber Of Commerce Head Welcomes New Coronavirus Bill, Gradual Reopening Of Economy

Closed shops are seen in Manhattan's Chinatown on March 17 in New York City. The path to reopening stores will be complex, the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says.
Johannes Eisele
AFP via Getty Images
Closed shops are seen in Manhattan's Chinatown on March 17 in New York City. The path to reopening stores will be complex, the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says.

Suzanne Clark, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, says the business group welcomes the Senate vote Tuesday to approve a new coronavirus aid package and she hopes for more help for businesses hit hard by the pandemic.

The Senate approved the new $484 billion measure, which includes $322 billion in funds for a small business loan program that ran out of money last week.

The House is expected to approve the measure Thursday and President Trump said he plans to sign it.

Clark, whose organization represents the interests of more than 3 million businesses in the U.S., also talked to All Things Considered about what the path to reopening the economy would look like. Here are selected excerpts of that interview:

I wonder, for example, how you were thinking about the push and pull between wanting to do this responsibly, wanting to sequence this. ... On the other hand, so much is interlinked. Parents, of course, can't return to their jobs until schools are open, until day care is open. It all needs to happen together.

It really is complex, you're right. And I think as the Chamber looks at a path forward to reopening, it will be gradual. It will be phased in. We know that different communities have been hit in a different way. Different industries will have different requirements.

But it's really four things. One, what are the essential services you need, such as child care and transit? Two, what is the equipment and training an employer needs to have in place? Three, what are the regulatory roadblocks or litigation risk they need to be thinking about? And four, it is going to be phases because we know there are industries that rely on high density that will take longer to get back to normal.

As someone who represents the business community, are you confident the federal government can turn this around with all the mixed messages on testing and other things?

I think it's a multilayered approach, right? You need the federal government for guidelines. You need state and local government for local implementation based on different conditions on the ground. And you need business leaders to talk about what's feasible. It's going to take that kind of collaboration to deal with this magnitude of a crisis.

Listen to the full interviewhere.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

James Doubek is an associate editor and reporter for NPR. He frequently covers breaking news for NPR.org and NPR's hourly newscast. In 2018, he reported feature stories for NPR's business desk on topics including electric scooters, cryptocurrency, and small business owners who lost out when Amazon made a deal with Apple.