Thursday, July 9, 2020

Small Businesses Concerned About Complex Guides To Restart Operations

By on May 4, 2020

United Retailers Center (CUD by its Spanish initials), Jorge Argüelles (Screen capture of www.centrounido.com)

SAN JUAN – The president of the United Retailers Center (CUD by its Spanish initials), Jorge Argüelles, said Monday that there is much concern among business owners about the guidelines established to resume their operations in accordance with the new executive order, which he stressed does not allow many businesses to run yet.

“Many business people have contacted us with concern about the requirements of this new self-certification that the Department of Labor is demanding and for which we have not received any guidance. From what I have heard it is quite a long document. Many have had to turn to labor lawyers and others for help. This is a document that was normally filled out alongside OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] officials and this time they are leaving that responsibility to the business owner,” Argüelles said in a radio interview (NotiUno).

“Many have even expressed to me that they preferred not to open. I am not opening the United Center because I am really afraid that now a battalion of various agencies is being formed to make sure that the business people comply with something that was hastily presented over the weekend and one doesn’t know if you are doing it correctly or not,” he added.

The secretary of the Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC), Manuel Laboy Rivera, announced Monday the publication of the Business Reactivation Plan for the reopening of certain economic activities, after the closure decreed as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In addition to the plan, a risk assessment template was published containing mitigation measures and the Employer Self-certification. It must be sent by employers to autocertificacionprosha@trabajo.pr.gov.

The protocols and documents can be found at https://refuerzoeconomico.com/reactivacion-de-negocios. If you have questions, e-mail emergencia@ddec.pr.gov.

Argüelles recommended that the document be reconsidered to make it easier.

“We have been closed for 50 days, to now have to open up scared, hoping they will not come and catch me for something I innocently could not comply with due to being unaware and they fine me $5,000 or God knows what,” he said.

He added that business people are desperate to open but still want to be able to comply with specifications. He pointed out that the government administration’s chief of staff, Antonio Pabón, contacted him Sunday and that he expects a response Monday.

“I predict that many will not open Monday because they will not have the document ready and for fear that they will be fined. Some have told me that they are not going to dare to do it,” he stressed.

In addition, the trade group spokesperson alleged unfair competition that is taking place because while small businesses have been closed, large chains have continued to operate and sell all kinds of items and that there have even been specials for Mother’s Day.

Argüelles said that although he has not communicated with business people from the south, the earthquake Saturday further complicates the picture, despite the fact that many of them are closed by COVID-19.

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