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As the country works to reopen, it is critical for Congress to pass reasonable liability protections for responsible businesses to be protected from unfounded lawsuits.

Most businesses have spent time and resources to ensure they are providing the safest environment for employees and customers. These efforts include requiring their employees to wear face masks and gloves and enforcing social distancing rules by limiting capacity.

Unfortunately, even businesses that took every precaution could still be at risk of expensive coronavirus-related lawsuits.

For this reason, some businesses have been slow to reopen because frivolous lawsuits could put them out of business. This would not only hurt the owner, but all the employees and customers who rely on the services provided by these businesses.

In addition, national and state coronavirus regulations have been unclear and change rapidly, which has made it difficult for some businesses to keep up with the ever-changing rules and requirements despite their best efforts.

No one wants bad actors who have been grossly negligent to be shielded from lawsuits. But responsible businesses that have taken a concerted effort to institute safety precautions should not have to go out of business fighting unfair lawsuits.

Thankfully, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made liability protection a priority in the next coronavirus relief package. Hopefully, senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito will also support reasonable liability protections, particularly for essential businesses that were encouraged to stay open as a part of the critical infrastructure workforce.

Small businesses like mine, that run on tight margins but provide a valuable service to the community and employment opportunities, cannot afford the cost of litigating a lawsuit in court, even if they do not find us at fault. Therefore, Congress should move quickly to pass reasonable liability protections, which would encourage more businesses to open and help get our economy back on track.

Greg Darby is president of the West Virginia Oil Marketers and Grocers Association and owner of Little General Store,Inc., located in Beckley.

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