After months of uncertainty, California finally appears to be on the right path in combating COVID-19, with new cases of the viruson the decline. Now, businesses across the state are gradually beginning the process of reopening and public life is beginning to resume alongside necessary protocols to ensure public safety.

Just recently, Los Angeles County became the latest example of this when indoor shopping malls, nail salons, and more were given the green light to start reopening with limited capacity. This move marks a major milestone in our economic recovery from this pandemic, and it will prove to be beneficial to all of the Angelenos who have struggled to make ends meet during the shutdown. Now, in the weeks and months ahead, it is vital that we avoid taking steps back in this reopening phase, which could prove to be economically devastating if it is not allowed to continue.

When Los Angeles was first forced to shut down earlier this year, unemployment skyrocketed and the city struggled to recover, having regained just one third of the jobs lost as of August. Notably, the African American community in Los Angeles was hit particularly hard by the economic downturn this summer. With indoor malls and other businesses now reopening, we have a golden opportunity to start paving the road to a true recovery. Hard working Angelenos who have been out of work can finally rejoin the workforce and provide a much-needed layer of financial security for their families.

As we’ve seen, businesses are placing a top priority and devoting resources to reopen safely. With closely monitored capacity, proper masking protocols, and frequent visible reminders of the importance of social distancing, businesses in California, have demonstrated that it is possible to reopen safely and provide the spark local economies need to get back on track.

Making sure that businesses can continue operating without the fear of another shutdown will also have substantial public benefits, as well. Sales tax makes up a significant portion of the funding used to finance essential social programs that help those in need, and allowing indoor malls and other retail establishments that offer essential goods to responsibly reopen and stay open will help to once again provide a consistent revenue stream for these programs. Given the combined budgetary and homelessness crises in Los Angeles that have only worsened in recent months, it is more important than ever before that these programs can be adequately funded.

For these reasons and more, it is a promising sign for Los Angeles that indoor shopping malls and other stores that offer everyday necessary items and services can begin reopening. However, this reopening will only be successful if our leaders at both the local and state levels continue to trust in our ability to safely restart operations and protect customers and employees alike. Thankfully, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, California Governor Gavin Newsom, and leaders in Sacramento have shown they recognize how important this step is by allowing so many businesses to reopen once more and continue making progress for the betterment of our communities.

I have full confidence that our elected leaders will continue to work in partnership with the business community as it begins moving forward once again. They know how important this move is for families across the city and the long-term benefits that the reopening of indoor malls will provide.

COVID-19 has ravaged the economy, leaving businesses on the brink and families pondering every night whether they will be able to afford the rent. We have now entered a stage where we are well-equipped to begin to reopen and alleviate those anxieties while still protecting our communities from this virus. This is essential progress, and we cannot afford to impede it now. Thankfully, our leaders are showing that they recognize this and are prepared to take this next step without hesitation.

Tony Ayala is the Vice Mayor of Norwalk, CA in Los Angeles County.