By Dora Betts
Governor Tom Wolf’s announcement to close all non-life sustaining physical work locations has significantly impacted small businesses across the state, including those in Lancaster county.
For businesses deemed essential that are relied on in everyday life like Thom’s Bread Bakery, these measures have changed the structure of work.
“We have been offering curbside ordering and following all CDC recommendations in order to provide a safe and reliable service/food resource… Everyone is required to wear face masks. Because it’s a food area, high sanitary measures are already taken, but workers are definitely needing to be more careful… Working schedules have just been arranged a bit to make for a safer environment for workers and customers,” said Madi Capizzi, whose family owns the bakery.
Sources of revenue have changed as well. For the bakery, bread for restaurants have decreased in sales due to less customers, while service for grocery stores has risen plausibly due to panic-buying. Both are significant portions of the company’s overall revenue.
“The local support from the community buying goods from our cafe has also increased significantly, and we are very grateful,” said Madi.
Businesses deemed non-life sustaining have been forced to shut their doors or face drastic penalties, including fines and license suspensions.
Simeral Construction Company, a residential contracting firm, is just one of many small businesses that have faced the impact of a closed shop.
“[Business operations] have fully stopped,” said Becky and Mark Simeral, the owners of the construction company.
Finding a source of financial relief in such an unprecedented time has left business owners and employees confused and worried about where their next paycheck may be. “There is no revenue as long as closure continues… We were forced to lay off 30 employees, but we have decided as a company to continue all employees’ health benefits,” said Becky and Mark Simeral, the owners of the construction company.
There is, however, some relief to be found.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is essentially a safety net from the government that will extend unemployment benefits for those who need it, temporarily including the self-employed and others who are not normally eligible. It provides an additional $600 per week and compensation for an additional 13 weeks to those in a situation similar to the Simerals’. However, the high influx of unemployed applicants has caused an implementation lag that has affected the speed at which checks are delivered to claimants’ homes.
“Personally, we feel the stimulus package will help people with unemployment, cash payments, and other various services,” said the Simerals.
Businesses like Thom’s Bread Bakery are eligible to receive forgivable loans to cover their payroll or wages as administered by the Payroll Protection Program. If all employees receive pay for eight weeks and the loan is used appropriately, then it can be forgiven by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
“[This] is such a tremendous weight off our shoulders,” said Madi, “I don’t pretend to know everything that our government has done since COVID-19 concerns have started, but from what I’ve heard, it seems to be a positive start.”
To support small businesses in this troubling time, delivery and curbside pick-up is still available for some essential locations. People can donate sanitary supplies or money to businesses in need, as well as promote their services through social media. Some businesses also have online stores that one could purchase items from, such as gift cards that can later be used in the physical store itself.
“With any change, stress can occur, but my dad has taken everything one step at a time and I’m positive that things will work out in the end,” said Madi.
*Thom’s Bread Bakery is located at 113 Butler Ave, Lancaster PA, 17601. Its hours of operation are 7AM-7PM.*