It is more than ironic that the governor’s Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery closed down just as businesses and workers face the prospect of more restrictions and closures with a surge of the coronavirus. The task force was introduced with great fanfare in April but ended with a press release on Friday, the typical news release day for government agencies that want to bury troubling news.

What did the task force, co-chaired by the governor’s chief-of-staff Ann O’Leary and billionaire Tom Steyer, do to help business and jobs recover from the pandemic? Read the co-chairs final 27-page report and they take credit for a number of conversations, thinking about problems and advocating plans that were in the works but no major initiatives to help bring jobs and the economy back. There was a lot of cheerleading for approaches already being pursued independent of the task force such as advocating for mask wearing or working with federal leaders to pursue relief in the form of stimulus funding.

Ask shuttered businesses, unemployed workers if the task force led to an economic recovery and they would likely respond in the negative.

There were no game changing protections for businesses forwarded for lawsuit relief or workers comp protections related to the virus scourge. There was no major plan proposed to reduce taxes and fees on businesses and workers who suffer from the pandemic. There was a website, however, that the report noted tallied more than 36,000 page views one month!

The economy did show signs of revival after the first lockdowns mandated  in California, but that rebound occurred nationally and was not tied to any brave new initiatives advocated by the governor’s task force.

The task force needed to focus full attention to get businesses and workers on their feet. However, the task force gave itself a broader mandate. Does helping to revive a sagging economy require an agenda that emphasizes as goals expressed by the co-chairs in the report’s introduction to the governor: “we must simultaneously take action on the deep crises of racial injustice, income disparity and climate change.” 

All admirable goals that will take time to accomplish while business and workers are suffering now.

For shop owners who are afraid they are about to go out of business or workers concerned a new host of restrictions will keep them out of work, better thinking on how to prevent these ends is needed. That great idea factory was supposed to be the result of appointing a star-studded task force. But as the state sits on the precipice of another economic slide with the growing virus threat, the task force closes its doors with little to show for its existence and a new troubling storm coming.