U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D) held the first “Examining Framework to Address Future Pandemic Risk” hearing on Friday, which aims develop economic plans to deal with future pandemic crises.
“I know that imagining another public health crisis of this magnitude is an unpleasant exercise, however in today’s interconnected world the question of the next pandemic is not if, but when,” said Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Banking Subcommittee on Securities, Insurance and Investment.
The hearing focused on the economic failures and risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and featured testimonies from experts, business leaders and insurance providers to help develop a plan to limit the financial burden businesses faced from the start of the pandemic.
“In a state like New Jersey that was particularly hit hard at the onset of the crisis, 92% of small businesses experienced revenue loss and 41% permanently closed,” said Menendez. “These losses were particularly concentrated in minority communities and in certain industries, such as restaurants, leisure and hospitality.”
Menendez said most businesses struggled to get relief from their insurance policies and most did not get any at all. These businesses had to apply to federal aid programs like the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan.
Witnesses included Evan Greenberg, Chief Executive Officer of Chubb, Robert Hartwig, Director of the University of South Carolina’s Center for Risk and Uncertainty Management, and Adenah Bayoh, an owner of several New Jersey IHOP franchises.
Bayoh, who immigrated to the U.S. and built her businesses from the ground up, said, “when the pandemic hit, I immediately contacted my insurance company. My broker advised me that viruses and pandemics were excluded from insurance policies like mine and . . . there would be no relief from my insurance company.”
Her comments were the reality of many other business owners and witnesses for the subcommittee. Menendez hopes that with more hearings a better, well-developed plan will be constructed from testimonies that will further protect businesses from other looming pandemics.
“We must determine the extend to which businesses, private insurance providers and the federal government are able to share the risk of losses due to a pandemic,” said Menendez.