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Local Leaders Concerned About Economic Impact of COVID-19

Friday, March 20, 2020 @ 12:03 AM

Posted by Chris Rossetti

Commissioners 6/11/2019CLARION CO., Pa. (EYT) – For obvious reasons, local leaders are very concerned about the possible economic impacts on many small businesses because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“I am very much concerned,” Ted Tharan, a Clarion County Commissioner said. “Being a businessman for 40 years, I know what it is like. I know what all these people are going through. Not only do you have your bills at the business, but you have bills at home, too. And, all your income has been cut off because you have had to close your business.”

Jefferson County Commissioner Jack Matson said the economic impact is already happening to some businesses.

“The concern is real,” Matson said. “It’s already getting close if not already here. The question is how big will it get?”

Venango County Commissioner Mike Dulaney said the unknown is causing a lot of concern.

“I am concerned because we are dealing with something we have never dealt with in our lifetime,” Dulaney said. “But, I have faith in our community. Our local businesses have been very charitable to non-profits and the community, and this is the time we need to step up and help them. They are staples in our community.”

While the concern is real, what can be done at the county level has a lot more uncertainty.

“Every county in the Commonwealth has declared a disaster emergency, I believe,” Matson said. “What that does is it opens the door to possibly assist individuals and companies with federal monies that will be distributed by the state.”

Matson said no one is sure how much money will be available or how it will be distributed, but in Jefferson County they are asking individuals that own businesses and companies to keep a record of the time and money they have lost, are losing, and will lose because of COVID-19.

“We want them to collect that information and send it to us, so we can send it to the state and show the real impact it is having on businesses in Jefferson County,” Matson said. “The more information we have the better. We are urging businesses to document their losses in both time and money. The more information we have, the better of a case we can make for Jefferson County when the time comes for the state to distribute the money the Federal government is going to make available.”

According to Tharan, there isn’t financial help that can come from the county-level.

“The county government has no financial wherewithal to help businesses,” Tharan said. “What I am suggesting we do when this eases up is that we start supporting local businesses. Everyone from the county should buy from local businesses even if they have to pay a little bit more. The reason costs are higher in rural areas is that the store owner has to pay more in these areas. They may buy cleaning supplies one box at a time while Walmart buys a truckload and gets a better price.”

Venango County Commissioner Albert “Chip” Abramovic said one of the things the commissioners can do is try to get local businesses’ questions answered.

“Anything we are able to do, we are going to do,” Abramovic said. “If we don’t know what the answer is or what that looks like, we will get the information and the resources that are potentially available as soon as they are accessible.”

Tharan said he is in constant contact with State Representative Donna Oberlander.

“I talk to Donna on a daily basis to find out what is going on,” Tharan said. “The government moves slowly, at least at the state level. I have to admire how fast the federal government has done stuff in this case. I didn’t realize when I was in the private sector how slow the government moves.”

Abramovic, his fellow Venango County Commissioner Sam Breene, and Tharan joined Dulaney in urging people to support local businesses through this crisis.

“I am concerned for businesses of course,” Breene said. “At the same time, I am optimistic at some of the things I have seen with the community coming together and doing what they can to shop local, going to take out places and places that have never had take out adjusting to doing take out. I really understand the pressure there is on businesses that depend paycheck to paycheck to make payroll.

“I urge people to go out and buy gift cards from these businesses. It is time to give back if you want to keep them. These are businesses that give so much to charity and others in our area. If you are thinking of a place to go get lunch, you can call these places, even those that normally don’t do takeout.”

Tharan said the idea of buying gift certificates from local businesses is perfect.

“Shop locally,” Tharan said. “I heard the idea of buying gift certificates, I think that is a good one. That way, these businesses know they will have money in the future which is important with all this uncertainty right now.”

Abramovic said now more than ever it is imperative to buy locally.

“These are the businesses that drive Venango County’s economy,’ Abramovic said. “We need to support those individuals who work at the local businesses. They are a key part of our communities. Anything that we are able to do we should do.”

Abramovic, for one, is hoping this is a short-term issue but also understands that plans need to be made in case it lasts longer than some expect.

“There is a lot of uncertainty as to what our future holds,” Abramovic said. “With that uncertainty brings uneasiness. I am fully expecting it is short-term, but we might have to be prepared for a long-term situation during these tough times. Remember, though, as we go through these tough times, on the other side of darkness is sunshine.”

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