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How the coronavirus is impacting our local economy

The Millerton News Editorial

Likening the coronavirus pandemic to being in a state of war, President Trump has been delivering daily updates to U.S. citizens, informing them not only of the number of confirmed cases and deaths, but also of just how the country is dealing with this critical emergency health crisis. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been doing the same, while Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro has been holding weekly telephone Town Hall meetings to keep residents in the know.

The information is fast-flowing and continually changing — keeping those in the media on its toes trying to report on the most current and accurate data. We hope readers can appreciate the fluidity of the situation, and we encourage you to share news updates affecting your communities during this difficult time, at editor@millertonnews.com.

The staff of The Lakeville  Journal Co. is working remotely in order to ensure both The Millerton News and The Lakeville Journal can continue their long-standing commitment to reporting local news, as noted on last week’s opinion page. We are fortunate — not all workers have that luxury. And with Gov. Cuomo’s Friday, March 20, edict that 100% of New York’s non-essential businesses close and non-essential workers stay at home, the local workforce is facing extreme economic hardship. He also banned non-essential travel. The new rules went into effect Sunday night, at 8 p.m.

“We’re all in quarantine now,” said Cuomo pragmatically at his Friday press conference.

He’s right. And as NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said during an evening press conference that same day, “We’re in a brand new reality, there are so many things we’re trying to sort out.” In a rare show of agreement, he praised Cuomo’s latest restrictions. NYC is now the “epicenter” of the pandemic in the U.S., said de Blasio.

So, many are wondering what, exactly, is considered an essential business? The answer can be found by clicking on www.esd.ny.gov/guidance-executive-order-2026, where one can view a full list of businesses deemed essential by New York state. Currently, grocery stores, convenience stores, farmers markets, pharmacies, gas stations, restaurants/bars (for take-out/delivery only) and hardware and building material stores are among the retail businesses considered essential.

Services considered essential by the state include trash and recycling collection, processing and disposal; mail and shipping services; laundromats; building cleaning and maintenance; child care services; auto repair; warehouse/distribution and fulfillment; funeral homes, crematoriums and cemeteries; storage for essential businesses; and animal shelters.

The news media, financial institutions, hospitals and other medical services/facilities as well as hotels are also considered essential, along with mass transit.

But that leaves a whole bevy of businesses now closed, shutting their doors to their employees, their customers and their suppliers. Because of the closures, those businesses aren’t producing any revenue, they’re not contributing to the tax base, they’re not providing paychecks,   they’re not ordering from suppliers and, by in large, they’re not buying advertising. The ripple effect is huge. Let’s face it, the COVID-19 health crisis is knocking a hard blow to our economy — and local businesses are feeling the brunt of the impact.

But while some have complained the government is unnecessarily shutting down the economy, President Trump explained his orders, and those of states like New York, in his Friday press conference.

“If we can save thousands of lives, even millions of lives, potentially… I think we’re doing a very effective job. We will know better in 14 to 15 days. We can bring our finances back very quickly; we can’t bring the people back.”

He’s right. Yes, it’s going to be rough on our business owners and workers, and in turn, on our communities. But the human toll of disobeying the new regulations would be far worse.

The goal here is to stop the spread of the coronavirus. That means social distancing — if possible, staying home — to keep from interacting with those who may be ill or from infecting those who may be well. We all have to be responsible and prepare for things to get worse before they get better.

In the meantime, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering low-interest federal disaster loans to small businesses suffering substantial loss due to the pandemic. For more, read “Cuomo mandates 100% of non-essential businesses close during crisis” on the front page.

Stay well.

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