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We Need A Plan To Help Businesses Hit By COVID

State Labor Department statistics showing the damage COVID-19 has done to the state and local job markets should come as no surprise.

Businesses have dealt with nine months of attendance limits, closures, restructuring to meet social distancing guidelines and a laundry list of increased costs. The struggles of the state’s unemployment system to keep up with demand was all the proof anyone needed to know the state’s Main Street economy was struggling regardless of the booming figures from Wall Street.

But the Chautauqua County numbers are particularly concerning because other rural areas haven’t been as hard hit as we have here. Chautauqua County has lost 4,600 jobs in the 12 months from January 2020 to January 2021, the most among rural counties. As a percentage of a county’s jobs, Chautauqua County’s job losses are the fourth-most among rural counties at 9.4%.

Obviously, getting area residents vaccinated is the first step in rebooting the county’s job market. What comes after vaccinations? Leisure and hospitality jobs may come back on their own with time, but can the same be said for the 900 manufacturing jobs that were lost?

We need a short-term plan to help businesses hard-hit by COVID to get back on their feet as quickly as possible as well as a longer-term plan to attract the types of businesses that can provide hundreds of jobs at a time. Federal stimulus checks won’t last forever — we need to find work for those whose jobs have evaporated or they will move away and our county will continue to shrink.

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