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Link job sectors to support struggling workers

Restaurant and bar owners statewide are grappling with how to tell their staffs there is no more work – and who is to tell when it will return? Even then, it might be too late for many living paycheck to paycheck and for some small business owners who are just hanging on.

A similar story is playing out for gig workers, who are accustomed to shuttling customers from playhouses to restaurants to bars. COVID-19 has shuttered restaurants, except for takeout orders, and now there are fewer customers who need to hail a ride.

Elected officials should put their heads together to figure out a way to help restaurant, bar owners and gig workers band together to serve the community and protect themselves. Here’s one thought, since restaurant dining rooms are now off-limits and only take out is permitted: Pay drivers of ride-hailing services to pick up orders for customers, many of whom are unable to leave their homes because they are elderly or sick. Taxpayers might be willing to pick up this tab, if it means helping the community – including friends, neighbors and relatives – weather this storm.

It is one possibility. There must be others. Now is the time for elected officials to reach out to the public and ask for advice. Perhaps the economist forced to work at home may have already given it some thought.

The restaurant and bar businesses are challenging during the best of times. Owners and managers constantly stay on top of trends in order to best serve loyal customers and attract new ones. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has restricted gatherings to no more than 50 people while President Trump on Monday recommended groups of no more than 10, and offered a host of guidelines.

Cases of coronavirus in New York State alone have exceeded 900 and a couple thousand in the United States. This pandemic is wreaking havoc across virtually every sector of society, disrupting schools, government, private business, the stock market and Americans’ peace of mind.

For now: Movie theaters and casinos are closed. So are restaurants and bars except for takeout. Gatherings of 50 or more people are discouraged. It is startling.

These are exceptional times. They calls for reinvention, the type that can go hand in hand with helping our neighbors.

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