U.S. Chamber asks governors for documentation for essential workers

(The Center Square) – After reports about essential workers being stopped by public health workers or law enforcement, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is asking governors who have put residents under stay-at-home orders to distribute an official document to show that a worker’s status is essential.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker has already said essential workers in Illinois don’t need any documentation.

CNN estimated that more than 90 percent of the U.S. population will be under either a state or local order to stay at home this week. Each state has its own list of businesses and workers that they have been deemed essential and those lists are subject to change.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey narrowed the state’s list of essential businesses last week.

Without uniformity, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s recommendation to governors is to provide workers with proof that they’re allowed to go to and from work.

“A local law enforcement official may not be fully-cognizant of who falls under the quarantine order and who does not,” said John Drake, executive director of Supply Chain Policy with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Right now, there’s so much that’s changing on an hour-to-hour basis that is oftentimes difficult for people to keep up with the changing landscape in who is an essential employee and who is not.”

Drake said the Chamber has heard reports of truck drivers delivering medical supplies being turned away and warehouse employees responsible for delivery logistics being told by law enforcement to go home.

“We have heard specific examples of companies who are in logistics, in the trucking space, who are working to deliver critical supplies, doing relief activities, or essential functions who have been turned away by local law enforcement officials because those officials do not understand that there are essential functions that are being performed,” Drake said.

The Chamber wrote a letter to the National Governors Association in March asking the same.

“We urge the nation’s governors to follow a uniform model of documentation to help local leaders and law enforcement officials recognize those essential and critical businesses and their employees,” they wrote.

Earlier in March, Gov. J.B. Pritzker was asked about if essential Illinois workers needed some sort of documentation from employers. He said that wasn’t necessary.

“Let me be clear, you do not need to have papers or permission from your employer,” he said. “Nobody’s being stopped on the streets unless they are seen to be directly violating the stay-at-home order, in which case, a police officer or somebody else may just ask you ‘please go home or are you, in fact, going to your job or going somewhere that is essential?’ just to encourage people to do the right thing.”

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