The Puerto Rico Retailers Association (ACDET, in Spanish) again asked Gov. Wanda Vázquez to allow businesses to fully reopen on Sundays, saying losses experienced by workers and the government related to the protracted inactivity are already estimated at $203 million.
The closing of some 7,296 retail businesses for some 20 Sundays — in accordance with the conditions included in the government’s Executive Orders to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus — have dealt a blow to both employees and government collections, the trade group said.
The 7,296 establishments that close on Sundays or reduce hours during the week employ some 102,697 people. This translates into $7.6 million in payroll that employees do not collect each Sunday, ACDET President Iván Báez said, citing estimates provided by Economist Antonio Rosado.
“Each closing on Sunday translates into losses for everybody, if we calculate the more than 20 Sundays that a business has been unable to operate, employees haven’t been paid more than [$150 million], which represents lower incomes for households, which can cause a food crisis of great proportions,” said Báez.
The $53 million difference represents the government’s losses in terms of sales tax collections and other revenue, Rosado confirmed.
“Our call is for the government to continue to reinforce the security, law and order measures at the sources of contagions that they’ve identified and allow us to operate on Sundays with the security measures that we’ve implemented. Without an economy, there can be no health,” Báez said, noting there is another aggravating factor in the long lines seen on Saturdays and Mondays, which leads to crowding.
The ACDET recently launched a media campaign to reinforce its education efforts among retailers, which includes a commitment to fight COVID-19. So far, some 300 retail establishments — restaurants, grocery stores and small, medium and large businesses — have signed up to the voluntary, self-monitoring pledge, Báez said.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, it has been proven, and this was confirmed by the numbers announced by epidemiologists, that retail hasn’t been the focus of outbreaks or infections on the island,” Báez said. “So, we ask the governor to allow us to operate on Sundays on a regular basis.”
The ACDET is the latest professional group to join the growing number of voices asking the government to ease restrictions on the economy as part of the effort to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. In recent days, representatives from the hotel and tourism industries, casinos, and restaurants have all made similar requests.