The Mercury (Pottstown, PA)
Rally outside Pennycuick’s office urges help for small business
NEW HANOVER >> Sonia Mastros founded Orbit Software on King Street in Pottstown 23 years ago.
When COVID-19 hit, the computer company employed 15 people. It now employs nine.
“We tried to keep as many employees as we can, because they can’t pay rent, they can’t pay their bills, but our sales are down 25 percent and we still have to pay our mortgage, utilities and taxes,” Mastros said.
She was one speaker at a small rally Tuesday outside the Gilbertsville office of state Rep. Tracy Pennycuick, R-147th Dist.
The rally was organized by the advocacy group We the People — Action, and aimed at urging Pennycuick to take action in Harrisburg to release the $7 billion in unspent federal American Rescue Plan funding to help small businesses, like Orbit, and working families.
Money in the pockets of working families, is money that goes into the hands of small businesses, said Mastros. “One pocket feeds another pocket,” she said.
Small businesses throughout the region are hurting. “When I saw that the Limerick diner closed, I just about cried,” she said. “I love that place.”
Katy Personette, deputy director of campaigns for We the People, said in the last 15 months that the COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged the economy, small business revenues are down 28 percent.
And since June, small business revenues have dropped another 10 percentage points.
The economy is down 400,000 jobs from February of 2020, she said.
“The Republicans criticized Gov. Wolf for his shutdowns that were done for public health because of the impact on small businesses and working people. Now they’re sitting on $7 billion those small businesses need to survive,” Personnette said.
“Their failure to help is utterly hypocritical. The time has come to put their money where there mouth is, because that’s our money,” she said noting that if the federal aid money is not spent by 2023, it goes back to Washington.
The state also has a $3.5 million surplus that is not being spent, but was stashed into a “rainy day fund” under the budget approved at the end of June.
All that money, said Personnette, needs to be directed to things that help the working families that work in those small businesses.
Those things include:, raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour; improving broadband access in rural and urban areas; improving access to childcare and a fund to provide a state tax rebate to low-income families.
“We’re asking Rep. Pennycuick to use this money to help her constituents,” she said.
The rally is one of many being undertaken in Delaware, Bucks, Allegheny and Dauphin counties as part of the group’s “Summer of Accountability,” she said.
A similar rally and press conference was held Monday in Norristown which was attended by legislators from Montgomery County including state representatives Joe Webster, D-150th Dist.; Mary Jo Daley, D148th Dist.; Napoleon Nelson, D-154th Dist.; Nancy Guenst, D-152nd Dist. and state senators Art Haywood, D-4th Dist. and Amanda Cappelletti, D-17th Dist.
“Many of them voted no on the state budget because it was not good enough helping small businesses and working families,” Personnette said. “Did Tracy Penncuick stand up for us?” Personnette asked.
The small group of eight people, which included Jill Dennin, the Democratic candidate Pennycuick defeated for the seat last year, replied “NO!”
“Perhaps the people at the rally don’t remember in 2008 when Gov. Rendell received federal aid and he spent it all and handed Gov. Corbett a $4 billion deficit,” Pennycuick said when contacted about the rally outside her office.
Told that one of the people at the rally is a small business owner, Pennycuick said “does she keep money back or spend everything she makes every month?”
She said “we did a lot of good things in this budget, including $282 million for nursing homes; $44 million for career training centers and $373 million for ongoing pandemic response.”
Republicans in the legislature “have asked the governor to use some of that money to help small businesses. I agree we could have done more for small businesses, but we have to be careful about spending everything and not having any money for something that could come up tomorrow, or the next couple of months.”