Re-opening our state for business isn’t about numbers like stock prices and GDP figures, it’s about preserving communities and a way of life that people have worked to build for centuries.

Family farms, small businesses that have been community landmarks for decades, and careers that have kept families fed and housed are now at risk of being choked to death by crushing restrictions that paint our geographically- and economically-diverse state with a broad brush. Saving lives is and has always been the priority for any proper COVID-19 response, but in doing so we must also protect the livelihoods and communities of people throughout the state.

Western New York is not New York City, and a plan for re-opening that genuinely does all it can to give people across the state relief must acknowledge these places have different resources available and circumstances in play that factor into how COVID-19 can be traced and to what extent it could spread. Rural counties in upstate New York have been hamstrung by unfunded state mandates for years and will struggle to fund levels of testing and tracing required by Gov. Cuomo’s re-opening plan to allow business to come back.

It’s easy to promise people the world and feign compassion when you’re doing it on somebody else’s dime, but a plan that can’t be paid for is a plan that just won’t work.

I was appalled when a week or so ago the governor told people that if they want to work, they should just become essential workers. Our essential workers are vital and our appreciation for them cannot be understated, but for many families in this state working is about more than just a paycheck.

It’s about serving their communities using talents cultivated over lifetimes, continuing traditions passed through generations, and preserving the establishments families have worked to build for decades.

These local businesses that are now facing the real possibility of being forced to close forever are the community landmarks that make the places we live truly feel like home, and to say these people should simply abandon them for another line of work is truly heartless. The governor may not be aware of it, as he considers taking care of upstate New York as an afterthought, but we in the west have already seen our fair share of shuttered storefronts in the last few decades, and we treasure the establishments that have survived so many years of neglect under state Democrats.

Much of this state can and must re-open now, because we need to give all businesses the opportunity to fight through this crisis. It can be done in less populous areas; we can social distance, we can start only allowing 25% capacity into establishments, establish strict standards for hygiene and sanitation, and so much more, but we need to be more creative and have more of a sense of urgency toward re-opening. We need to act fast, because for many small businesses in upstate New York, getting back to work has become a do-or-die prospect.

Assemblyman David DiPietro represents the 147th Assembly District, which covers all of Wyoming County and the southern portion of Erie County.

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