The economic calamity tied to the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t punched us here like it has other places.
But make no mistake; money is tight and getting tighter.
I’m not just talking the obvious either. The extra $600 that the federal government was paying people on unemployment ran out last week.
The Payroll Protection Program that 200 businesses here participated in ran for 8 weeks. They’re up with no renewal in sight.
And remember those $1,200 stimulus checks? Seems like months ago, doesn’t it? Well, it was.
Since so many businesses here got PPP help, a lot of our firms have kept operating.
But the economic slowdown has effects you might not realize.
The town of Romney has seen water and sewer revenue drop dramatically since mid-March.
Sure, you and I have been staying home and flushing our toilets and taking showers regularly (we hope). But a couple of big water and sewer users in town went, well, dry — Romney Elementary School and the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind. Remember, WVSDB not only has kids in class Monday-Friday, but they also have about 2/3 of them staying there 24 hours a day too.
That’s a lot of baths and flushes and dishwashing.
Romney has a bit of a reserve, so the drop in usage hasn’t forced layoffs; but it hasn’t allowed any wiggle room for other things either.
Add to that out-of-work residents who might fall behind on bills and well, the economic downturn ripples.
This shouldn’t be huge news, but sometimes we need a good reminder.
I moved here in late 2007, just as the housing bubble burst and threw the country into the Great Recession.
I remember at the time Charlie See — the paper’s owner and publisher — telling me that economic problems were slow to come to Hampshire County.
Unfortunately, he noted, that meant that we’re also among the last to recover once things go south.
He was right as 2008 and 2009 unfolded. And he was right as the economy recovered and we lagged behind. You could see it in the biggest driver of the local economy at the time — land and house sales.
We’ll come out of these trying times, but we’ll come out slowly. Not just you and me, but the town of Romney and the other government bodies too.
Just figure we’ll all have to live smarter and a little more frugally for a while.