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COVID-19 pandemic creates problems for Womer’s Notary, a business of 1

Helen Wommer of Wommer's Notary in Hughesville. KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

Helen Womer does her best not to complain about her situation. Each time she talks about how tough the COVID-19 pandemic has been on she, her family and her business, she follows it by pointing out she’s luckier than others.

Womer’s Notary Message and Tag Service at 131 South Railroad Street in Hughesville has been closed since the second week of March when Gov. Tom Wolf closed all non-life-sustaining business throughout the commonwealth. Womer’s husband, Frederick, is a truck driver who has also been out of work. Their jobs are a supplemental income to the Social Security they receive, and neither has been able to collect a paycheck from their jobs since that second week of March.

“It’s been tough, but we’re luckier than a lot of people,” Womer said. “We’re OK so far. If it goes a whole lot longer, then who knows?”

Wolf announced Wednesday night a tentative plan to begin reopening portions of the state which have not been hit as hard by the novel coronavirus. Those areas included northwestern and northcentral Pennsylvania counties. Womer said being able to reopen her business would be a relief.

Because Womer doesn’t have any employees other than herself, she’s not eligible for the small business loans through the CARES Act, which was passed by Congress in late March. Instead, she’s been without the approximately $1,000 per week her business generates while still having pay some of the fees necessary to operate the business once it opens.

She has a bond coming due, which she’ll have to pay. Of five of the licenses she needs to operate the business, two come due in May. And she still has advertising she has to make payments. Those things are coming out of the family’s household budget.

She already knows when she’s finally allowed to open the doors to her business again, there will be some initial costs, which are going to hit her hard. But she already has a page and a half long list of clients who have already said they’ll need her services when she does reopen. So to combat all costs coming with the business with no income coming in, she and Frederick have kept life pretty simple during the last five or six weeks.

“We do not spend. We don’t spend on anything we don’t need,” Womer said. “Groceries and gas for the car. That’s it.”

In July, Womer will celebrate her business’ 20th anniversary. She’s been a notary since 1983. What she misses the most during the pandemic is dealing with the people who come through her door. She’s already making plans to minimize traffic in and out of the business, but they were precautions she was already taking before Wolf’s mandate closed her business.

She wears a mask when people come in. Now, customers will also be required to wear one. She sanitized the table and doors after a customer visits. And when business does begin, she’ll limit the people coming into the business to only the buyer and seller needing her services.

In the past, people have brought various family members, including children, when the come to see her. But to be cautious, she likely won’t allow that as a way to stay as safe as possible.

“I’ll take all the precautions I have to take,” Womer said. “I’m looking forward to getting back to work. I want to see my customers. Nobody has been in the house since the second week of March. It’ll be nice to see someone come in.”

Womer has made sure not to go stir crazy during the time away from her business by making sure she has something to do every day. While she would normally do her spring cleaning around the house in May, no time seemed better than right now.

It’s given both she and Frederick a reason to stay busy. Both of the family’s garages have gotten a good cleaning from Frederick. He helped take down and put back up the curtains during the spring cleaning. And when they’ve needed a little air or just to get out of the house, there have been a few trips on their trike motorcycle just to enjoy the outdoors.

But she’s ready to get back to doing the paperwork she enjoys doing so much.

“We’re lucky, and we know that. We’re still healthy,” Womer said. “Hopefully we can get back to living our lives as normally as we can.”

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