A 34-member panel of leaders and experts will help state lawmakers figure out how to bring New Jersey back from the pandemic.

Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin established the COVID-19 Economic Advisory Council, which will operate apart from a commission empaneled by Gov. Phil Murphy.

George Zoffinger, the former CEO of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority and current chairman of the New Brunswick Economic Development Corporation, is heading the Assembly panel.

“We want to provide input and ideas to the speaker and other members of the state Legislature on how to move forward with recovery from COVID-19,” Zoffinger said.

"Obviously that’s a very complex issue, so it’s going to require input from a great many people and I know there are so many people in our state that are so committed to trying to bring about a recovery.”

He said his panel will try to help legislative leaders get a better understanding of the most effective ways to help businesses in all economic sectors.

“We also need to identify what some of the downside risks are and make recommendations on how to avoid them," he said. “We always have to look at the consequences of any decision and make sure that we’re doing, at least as far as we know, the best we can for the state of New Jersey."

Subcommittees will focus on issues related to government, infrastructure/manufacturing/labor, banking, education, health care, retail and tourism, and social services.

Zoffinger said there is no hard-and-fast timetable for putting together recommendations but “at the end of all this, I hope to have an action plan that can be used by the legislative leaders to get us out of this horrific mess.”

The council met via Zoom for the first time on Friday.

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