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If you’ve got a bright idea for how to get small businesses and nonprofits in New Jersey hooked up with personal protective equipment as they reopen, the state wants to hear from you this week.

The state Economic Development Authority last week put out a call for information, ideas and solutions for the issue, with a Friday, June 26 deadline. Chief executive officer Tim Sullivan said a key part of a safe reopening of the economy is having PPE reliably and affordably available to small businesses.

“And it’s a big challenge that’s going to hamper the recovery if we don’t figure out a way to help or to at least solve it,” said Sullivan, who is also co-chair of the Restart and Recovery Advisory Council.

“Businesses want to be open. We want them to be open, of course, as soon as it’s safe,” he said. “This is a big sort of how you get there and how they get there.”

Sullivan said the council, made up of Jersey-based officials, and the Restart and Recovery Advisory Commission, which includes more national figures, have talked about a co-op, purchasing agent or purchasing organization but are open to suggestions.

“Those may or may not be the best solutions,” Sullivan said. “If others have good ideas, this is a good time to let us know because we want to make some decisions and recommendations to the governor on what interventions might work here.”

Even three months into the pandemic, the search for hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes remains challenging – and during most of that time, many businesses were closed at the direction of Gov. Phil Murphy. As they reopen, demand for those supplies, masks and gloves will only increase.

“Now that people are allowed to be open, they’re only allowed to be open if they’re doing certain things,” Sullivan said. “And customers are going to look for certain things. Customers are going to want to see masks. Customers are going to want to see gloves and Plexiglass separations, that kind of stuff.”

Sullivan said there could also be an opportunity for New Jersey-based manufacturers of things like masks and gloves to sell their supplies to other Jersey-based businesses.

Sullivan said the state itself won’t be in the business of buying and selling PPE. He said it would like to act on a solution in July, unless a unique idea it hadn’t considered gets submitted this week.

Click here for more details. Questions to the EDA must be submitted by a Tuesday deadline.

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