Controversial Firm Advising On Reopening Economy

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New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo joined with leaders of neighboring states to coordinate their coronavirus response.
(Photo courtesy of Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo)

On the heels of data that shows the worst of coronavirus’ impact on New York may have already passed, the state has contracted the consulting firm McKinsey & Company to advise the state on reopening its economy down the line. 

The multi-billion dollar consulting company has been hired to develop data-driven strategies to revitalize the economies of six northeastern U.S. states, led by New York, that have joined together to coordinate their activities on a regional level.

Specifics on reopening the economy and a timeline have yet to be fully developed, but Cuomo announced that all ongoing restrictions on businesses and activities in the state will be extended until at least May 15. The governor also said that reopening businesses, when the time comes, will be done on the basis of how essential the services they provide are and the risk of exposure posed by their operations. 

“This is going to be an ongoing process over the coming weeks that we’re working through with the other states,” Cuomo said at a press conference on April 16. “You stopped everything. How do you now restart that machine in a coordinated way that doesn’t drive up the infection rate? That’s the balance that we’re trying to strike on un-pausing and having businesses open.”

According to information gathered by Reuters, McKinsey will produce models on key data points like infection rates and testing availability that will be used to help inform the states as they begin the gradual process of returning operations to a state of normalcy. 

McKinsey & Company has been a lightning rod of controversy in recent years, as the results of their consultations have generated storms of negative coverage. Back in 2014, the firm was hired by New York City to help find ways to lower the rate of assaults and violence within its prison at Rikers Island, according to reports from ProPublica. The firm’s work at the prison lasted three years and netted it $27.5 million from the city. As the project drew to a close, McKinsey officials boasted the company’s efforts had cut violent incidents in the prison by 50 percent. However, independent reports released in October 2019 found that violence at Rikers increased during that time.

On a national level, the firm came under fire for its consultation work for the U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) at the tail end of last year. Hired to find ways the agency could reduce the cost of its operations, the New York Times and ProPublica reported McKinsey officials proposed measures like reducing spending on food and medical care for detained immigrants under the agency’s custody. The Times has also reported extensively on McKinsey’s work for authoritarian regimes in countries like Saudi Arabia and China.

McKinsey maintains it does not “support or engage in political activities” on its website, and has called reports on its work for ICE false and misleading to readers.

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