Warren's Businesses Dealt With A Summer Of Uncertainty
This summer, WPSU partnered with students in Penn State’s Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications to look at how towns in central Pennsylvania are doing in the run-up to the presidential election.
In Warren, Pennsylvania, as in many towns this summer, coronavirus concerns and shutdowns made main streets quieter than usual.
Charlie Kox owns Allegheny Antiques, which is in downtown Warren. Kox said he’d been fortunate to keep his business alive during the Pandemic.
“It’s not my sole source of income,” Kox said. “If it were, I think I would have had to fold already. So, I’m shocked by the small mom and pop businesses that have found a way to continue when I know it was their main source of income.”
At its worst, the unemployment rate in Warren County rose to above 13%.
Starting in the spring, Warren officials introduced programs to help shore up restaurants and bars.
Jim Decker is the CEO of the Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry. Decker helped create “Operation Restaurant Rescue,” which encouraged residents to order takeout from local restaurants.
Those who ordered food were entered into a raffle to win three cash prizes, which were split between the winners and the restaurants they ordered from.
“The whole idea was to remind folks that these restaurants were still open,” Decker said.
Decker and other local officials also worked to connect businesses in Warren with Pennsylvania’s business relief assistance program. Decker said these benefits were the difference between surviving and closing permanently for some businesses.
“There isn’t a business in Warren County that hasn’t been impacted in some way, shape or form,” Decker said.
Businesses weren’t the only ones hit hard. Local non-profits and food banks also struggled to get the resources they needed.
Individuals, like Victoria Hollis, had to adapt as well.
Hollis is a mother of six and a nurse. She anticipated shortages at stores and used her pandemic stimulus check in the early summer to stock up.
“I used that money to go buy supplies because of the instability of knowing if those supplies are going to be there next month,” Hollis said.
Hollis also had to put off some bigger expenses she had been planning, like remodeling her kitchen.
An extra $600 a week federal supplement to unemployment benefits expired at the end of July. Another, smaller unemployment benefit ran out quickly. The government has been stalled on a second pandemic stimulus package.
Many in Warren, and everywhere, have been working hard to make ends meet.
The antiques dealer, Kox, says some have even been trying to sell him their family antiques to stay afloat.