Chip Schwarze

{span}Chip Schwarze{/span}

The Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce asked state legislators in a Friday morning letter to keep the emergency declaration in place.

The letter was signed by Chamber CEO Chip Schwarze as the representative for more than 600 local businesses that are chamber members. Schwarze wrote that prematurely declaring the end of the COVID-19 emergency could pose risks for vaccine distribution and overall business recovery from the losses of 2020.

“A strong concern is that the end of the emergency declaration would bring an end to the federal aid helping our local businesses get back on their feet. East Idaho businesses are counting on vaccines to open our economy completely. Do not endanger funding which can ensure our bright future when we are almost through this pandemic,” the letter stated.

Schwarze wrote that he and other business leaders understood the desire to move forward from the restrictions enacted by the pandemic, but the rising number of immunizations provided did not mean it was “time to declare victory.”

In an interview with the Post Register, Schwarze said the Chamber’s executive committee had been unanimous in wanting to send the letter out. He said that measures such as mask requirements and limited crowd sizes are prudent but continue to present challenges to businesses.

“We are all still feeling the impacts of those limitations. I just think it’s silly to throw it out right now and risk having another spike in this pandemic,” Schwarze said.

On Tuesday, the Senate State Affairs Committee voted to advance a measure ending the state’s COVID-19 emergency order to a full Senate vote. Some Republican state senators who supported the bill said they would find ways to retain federal aid outside the state of emergency, but Director of the Idaho Office of Emergency Management Brad Richy said the bill as written could cost the state millions in funding from FEMA.

Gov. Brad Little held a press conference at noon Friday to publicly make the same push against the proposed Senate resolution. Little said some legislators were sharing misinformation about the connection between the emergency order and the limits put in place by the Idaho Rebounds plan to reopen the state.

”The COVID-19 emergency declaration was requested by Idaho communities, and it is critical in order for Idaho to receive federal assistance, your taxpayer dollars, to manage this crisis,” Little said.

Brennen is the main education reporter for the Post Register. Contact him with news tips at 208-542-6711.