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GINA SUYDAM

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KEITH YURGOSKY

Keith Yurgosky predicts a tough road ahead for businesses in Wyoming County and beyond.

Along with other staff members at the University of Scranton Small Business Development Center, the business consultant for Wyoming and Susquehanna counties has been working remotely to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

On March 16, Gov. Tom Wolf encouraged the temporary shutdown of all non-essential businesses in Pennsylvania for at least two weeks, causing uncertainty for those locally and across the state. Then on March 19, Wolf ordered all non-life-sustaining businesses to temporarily close their physical locations.

Earlier last week, the Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce encouraged business owners to fill out a form estimating the economic impact on their business. The SBDC collected these forms for submission to the state government, hearing responses from businesses of all sectors and sizes.

“Everybody is affected,” Yurgosky said. “This is going to be unprecedented.”

His main advice, and that of the SBDC, has been for businesses to keep detailed records for the purpose of applying for economic injury loans. This will allow businesses to show the hit they took from COVID-19.

The U.S. Small Business Administration has made low-interest loans available for eligible small businesses and nonprofits in Pennsylvania. Visit sba.gov/disaster to apply or find more information.

Meanwhile, staff members of the WyCCC have also been working remotely. WyCCC President Gina Suydam asks that people call 570-836-7755 for assistance and utilize the office’s mail slot for drop offs.

The chamber has been staying in touch with business stakeholders such as the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, as well as local business owners.

“We of course understand that we’re likely seeing the start of the effects, so I’m asking businesses to project what a two-week shutdown might look like, then a two-month shutdown, and what that might do to their business,” Suydam said.

Suydam encouraged businesses that remain open to take precautions to limit exposure.

“We at the chamber are encouraging our businesses to take this seriously and I want to commend businesses that have been innovative and altered their plans,” she said.

This includes retailers offering curbside pickup and shop by phone, and restaurants which have stayed open to offer takeout and deliveries.

“These are all important and I would really encourage the public to continue to support them,” she said.

Laura Yale, owner of The Fireplace Restaurant in Tunkhannock, said COVID-19 restrictions have been hitting restaurants hard.

“People have been reaching out to know how they can help our industry. It brought me to my knees. It’s brought this industry to its knees, all of us mom and pop shops,” she said. “Thank God we live in a wonderful, supportive community.”

The Fireplace Restaurant, along with others in the area, remains open for takeout meals only. As of now, the restaurant opens at 11 a.m. and closes at 9 p.m. or later.

“We’re in it for the long haul. We’re all rallying together and we’re going to help our employees any way we can,” Yale said. “We cannot thank everyone enough for the support we’ve been given.”

The current Leadership Wyoming class through the WyCCC also came up with the “Pay it Forward Restaurant Gift Card Chain.” The chamber will coordinate $25 and $50 gift card purchases from its restaurants on wyccc.com and mail them to customers.

If COVID-19 has impacted your job, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits. Some scenarios include an employer closing or reducing hours, or an employee being quarantined due to COVID-19. Yurgosky noted that Pennsylvania has not opened up unemployment compensation to self-employed individuals.

Visit uc.pa.gov to see if you qualify and find out how to apply.

The University of Scranton SBDC has dedicated a page on its website scrantonsbdc.com to COVID-19 assistance as staff members remain available to help business owners with navigating the loan process and other matters. Current SBDC clients should contact their business consultant, while prospective clients could call 570-941-7588 or email sbdc@scranton.edu.

Visit the chamber’s website wyccc.com for additional resources, such as local places still offering services under the business shutdown.

“We don’t know where this will go or how long this will last, so the best we can do is to support each other through it,” Suydam said.