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Lawmakers, business leaders share concerns about COVID-19 financial impact

Seth Alberts, president and CEO of Ralph’ S. Albert Co. Inc., left, gives a tour to state Rep. Joe Hamm-R, Hepburn Township; state Rep. Martina White-R, Parkwood Township; Gordon Snyder, owner of Johnson’s Cafe; and state Rep. David Rowe,-R, East Buffalo Township, from left to right; of the Montoursville facility. The state reps and other local business leaders discussed Gov. Wof’s decision to shutter businesses during the pandemic. KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

Local businesses are trying desperately to return to normal, pre-pandemic working conditions but need assurance that they won’t be strangled by government directives that prevent it from happening.

Business officials and government leaders met at the Ralph Alberts Co., Montoursville in a roundtable discussion to consider the present economic climate and how businesses can successfully navigate moving forward.

Seth Alberts, of Ralph Alberts, noted the last 14 months have been tough for his company.

He said the business has been rebounding since the onset of the pandemic but continues to have problems finding people to work for the company.

Two people offered jobs last week failed to show up, he noted.

“We just can’t get people to work,” he said.

Others offered similar comments during the roundtable discussion.

Gordie Snyder, of Johnson’s Cafe, Montoursville, said he’s forced to close his restaurant one day a week due to labor shortages.

“Our revenues are being impacted because of the labor market,” he said.

He said every day is simply a juggling act.

Some blamed Gov. Wolf with unilaterally using his power to shut down certain businesses due to the pandemic.

State Rep. Joe Hamm, R-Hepburn Township, called for placing Constitutional Amendments on the May 18 primary election ballot to allow voters to decide if they want to restore checks and balances to the state’s emergency disaster declaration process.

Big corporations, he noted, were able to stay open while smaller businesses doing the same work or selling the same products were forced to close.

“In Pennsylvania, we are still struggling,” Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce President Jason Fink said.

Fink pointed to the restaurant business, which was forced to shut down on-site dining before allowing limited capacity.

“I’m amazed we were able to keep as many surviving as we did,” he said.

Other states, he said, have had better policies in place for businesses.

Central Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tea Jay Aikey said the labor shortage is impacting all industries.

People don’t want to work, she noted, when they can receive generous unemployment benefits.

“Those who are offered jobs need to get back to work,” she said.

Fink said government is simply making it too easy for unemployed people to remain jobless.

The business tour also made stops at The Country Cupboard in Lewisburg and Selinsgrove Speedway.

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