A business leader pleads for a rescue | Q & A with Tom Bracken

Tom Bracken, president and CEO of the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce since 2011, is pressing Gov. Phil Murphy to reserve the bulk of remaining federal aid to help businesses recover from the pandemic. In his view, the governor has done good work on the public health crisis during this pandemic but has fallen short in addressing the economic crisis. He discussed it with Tom Moran, editorial page editor at The Star-Ledger. An edited transcript appears below.

Q. Let’s start by assessing the damage this pandemic has done to businesses in New Jersey. How bad is it out there?

A. It’s beyond bad. Somewhere around 38 percent of all small businesses closed their doors, and it’s about 40 percent in the restaurant business. And that doesn’t account for the people who lost their jobs working for companies that survived.

Q. How much has federal aid helped up to this point?

A. Tremendously. It was a godsend. About $26 billion in loans were given in New Jersey…

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