A coalition of Massachusetts business groups released a manifesto Tuesday urging the Baker administration not to reinstate statewide mask or vaccination mandates as they work to stay afloat amid the pandemic.
In a statement they listed “marketplace principles” that would allow a trend toward normalcy, even as COVID-19 surges driven by the delta and omicron variants. They also called for more state funding to help them recoup from their losses and cope with continued challenges.
“Government-imposed mandates will injure small businesses by lowering sales, raising operational costs, and placing employers in the unfair positions of enforcing health orders,” the coalition made up of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the North Shore Chamber of Commerce and the state’s Package Store Association wrote.
While Gov. Charlie Baker is resisting a statewide mask mandate, some communities – Boston, Peabody and Salem, for instance – implemented them. Many others require them in municipal buildings, and still others have not reinstated any restrictions.
Baker said his reluctance is partly the very reason business groups are appealing to him: to keep them alive. But Baker also has been criticized by health officials and others for his lack of leadership on that front, which is creating mass confusion.
Let’s be clear: Mask and vaccine mandates are vital to turning back the omicron surge. Those decisions can’t be simply left to individual businesses. Federal, state and local health and safety rules exist for a reason; marketplace principles have little to do with public health.
That said, the coalition is entirely correct when it says government needs to be faster and more efficient when it comes to getting aid to businesses affected by the pandemic.
With $2.3 billion in surplus and ARPA funds remaining in the pandemic relief fund, it’s imperative legislators continue to delegate funds to buoy the economy – and protect people’s livelihoods.