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Local businesses working through COVID-19 crisis


Last updated 3/24/2020 at 12:35pm

The COVID-19 crisis is affecting small businesses with those businesses closing, operating under reduced hours and staffing and employees asked to practice social distancing and to stay home unless absolutely necessary.

Much has been written and reported on concerning owners and employees of the hospitality industry, among the first ordered to close to minimize social contact. Bars and restaurants are permitted only to provide take-out or delivery of meals. Campaigns have begun to encourage everyone to patronize local businesses online and order take-out.

But what about the other small businesses, many having been around for generations?

Jim Sproat of Realty Counseling Company on South Side has applied for a waiver to continue operating as a property management company.

In the last week, properties the company manages had issues with flooding, a window being blown out from the wind and a gas dryer vent coming disconnected. “These are important life issues for people,” he said.

“I think we’re essential.” He added someone has to be available to take care of these kind of problems.

Mr. Sproat said a big part of his business is fiduciary, collecting rent for his clients. He said as the crisis continues it will become harder for people to pay their rents noting many hospitality people have lost their income.

He sees a “trickle down” effect particularly with people in the hospitality industry. As people have trouble paying their rents, owners with mortgages will have trouble paying those mortgages.

He’s already had calls from people saying they won’t be able to pay their rent in the coming month. While some owners have been understanding, others are in the same financial situation at the renters – depending on the rent to pay the mortgage on the property.

The problem isn’t confined to residential rentals, Mr. Sproat said with all the businesses closed they too may have trouble coming up with the money to continue to pay the rent. Compounding problems for the owners are the increases in water and sewage costs. In many cases the monthly water and sewage costs are greater than the taxes on the property.

“In the rental business, money comes in – money goes out,” he said.

Social distancing is also having an affect on the funeral business according to Kevin Deterle at the Readshaw Funeral Home in Carrick.

Visitations are limited to no more than 10 people at a time and although churches are permitting Funeral Masses, they are also limited to 10 people, Mr. Deterle said.

“Cemeteries are requesting we go straight to the graveside,” he said. And the National Cemetery is not accepting any services, only burial without a service.

Mr. Deterle said they continue to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week with a full staff, but are staggering their hours to not have everyone together at one time unless needed.

Where possible, Mr. Deterle explained, they are making arrangements over the phone or by email. “Of course, there are some arrangements that have to be made in person.”

“We’re doing the best we can and taking the precautions necessary,” he said.

Contractor George Zubasic, “The Big Z,” says he’s able to work and has work lined up, but has secluded himself for the past several weeks to “get the curve going the other way.”

Another reason for him scaling back the work he’s doing is that people are cautious about having workmen come to their homes and questioning any travel at all.

Mr. Zubasic said in the meantime, if there’s an emergency, he’s willing to go out and do the work.


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