In continuing to gather information on how Pennsylvania businesses are currently functioning following the COVID-19 pandemic and what assistance they may need moving forward, Rep. Jim Rigby (R-Johnstown) along with House Majority Policy Committee Chairman Martin Causer (R-Cameron/McKean/Potter) and members of the committee met with area businesses and organizations to discuss how the COVID-19 mitigation orders impacted their past and current daily operations.
“The City of Johnstown, along with the surrounding area, is definitely on the rise, thanks to many great people who are making investments and seeing them begin to pay off,” said Rigby. “We as a region were not, however, immune to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and I’m pleased our business leaders have the opportunity to demonstrate not only the hit we took but how we are energized and in the midst of recovery.”
During the hearing, Tara Bosserman, chief operating officer of the Cambria County Association for the Blind and Handicapped (CCABH), shared how work centers like hers were mandated in March 2020 to close their doors to individuals with disabilities.
“These work centers employ thousands of Intellectually Developmentally Disabled individuals. Prevocational facilities licensed under 55 Pa. Code Chapter 2390 across the state were mandated in March 2020 to close their doors to individuals with disabilities and those ‘businesses’ were left struggling without a workforce and a workforce struggling without a paycheck,” she said. “In our case, that was 150 individuals in our vocational program and 100 individuals in our handicapped employment. Our organization alone, since March 2020 to present, has lost approximately $1.3 million in state funding for our vocational program due to state mandates and recommendations from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The president and CEO of JWF Industries, William Polacek, expressed financial concerns over inflation and the cost of materials stating that “the price of steel and scrap has tripled” and that “our supply chain is working diligently to research and find the best prices on steel so that we can continue to provide our customers with the excellence they receive from JWF Industries.”
Bigger business setbacks such as hiring, training and working wages were also mentioned.
“A major challenge as a restaurant owner is hiring, training, and retaining staff. It seems like every restaurant is hiring and cannot fill those positions,” said Donald Kasprzyk, owner and banquet manager of the Boulevard Grill in Johnstown. “I feel if this inability to hire continues it will hinder our keeping up with the increased demand for our services as we ultimately come out of the pandemic.”
Kasprzyk added “Not only is staffing currently difficult, the ever present, potentially extreme minimum wage increase looming over small business owners is a huge concern. I do feel that minimum wage does need to increase. For over four years I have paid my dishwashers, typically high school students with no experience, above minimum wage. However, a one-time doubling of the minimum wage, especially in a small town such as Johnstown, would be devastating.”
Causer thanked the area business leaders for taking the time to participate in the hearing.
“As the Commonwealth works to move successfully through the COVID-19 pandemic, it is vital that we hear from the business and organization leaders that help drive our economy,” Causer said. “I really appreciate the feedback we received today. Working together, we can make our Commonwealth an even better place to live and work.”
Additional information regarding this hearing, along with written testimony, will be posted at www.pagoppolicy.com
Representative Jim Rigby
71st Legislative District
Representative Martin T. Causer
67th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
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