County board hears concerns

Small business owners express their opinions and hardships with COVID-19 closings

By GARY HENRY ghenry@prairiepress.net
Posted 5/18/20

About 20 people addressed the Edgar County Board Wednesday, May 10, asking for any possible help in getting the State of Illinois to speed up the reopening of closed businesses.

Unlike other …

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County board hears concerns

Small business owners express their opinions and hardships with COVID-19 closings

Posted

About 20 people addressed the Edgar County Board Wednesday, May 10, asking for any possible help in getting the State of Illinois to speed up the reopening of closed businesses.

Unlike other locations, where frustrations have boiled over, those speaking to the board were respectful and acknowledged the county lacks the authority to either undo the governor’s executive orders or to tell people it is OK to reopen.

Jill Mattingly of the Bloomfield Barn asked board members to be a voice for local businesses and keep pressure on officials in the executive branch about how difficult it is for businesses to remain closed.

“We need your help,” said Mattingly. “We want to keep Edgar County COVID-free, but we need a lifeline. If businesses fail, the county fails.”

For some, it is an issue of fairness. Maddie McCarty of Ol’ Hairitage Beauty & Boutique complained her business was shuttered March 22 with no warning, and she has had no income since then. She said as a beauty shop the business must maintain sanitary standards, and she is willing to follow any additional steps required for the safety of staff and customers.

“It’s not fair for us to be shut down when places like Wal-Mart and Rural King can stay open,” said McCarty.

Dustin Reed of On the Tracks Café said his business is hurting, and he has taken a job away from the restaurant. He did participate in a paycheck protection loan plan so his employees continue getting a paycheck.

“But my regular bills didn’t stop,” said Reed.

He has tried to keep going with curbside and home delivery of meals and is worried about what will happen if plans to limit customers to only 50 percent of building capacity are implemented when he can have diners back in the building. He said in his small building that is about five tables and probably is not enough volume to sustain the business.

“When this started we looked at the data and said, ‘Yes, it is right to close,’” said Tom Dolan of Tom’s Fitness and Martial Arts.

The uncertainty of how long closures might last makes it difficult for local businesses, according to Dolan.

“As a business, we want to do our part, but when does this end?” he said. “Nobody wants to see anyone hurt. We want to be reasonable.”

Some referred to Edgar County not having any positive tests for COVID-19 as a reason why the strict measures designed to contain an outbreak should not apply here.

Cynthia Patrick of Andrew’s at the Westbrook echoed the call for the county board to be the community’s voice to higher levels of government. She said people want to be open in order to pay bills, mortgages and not lose their businesses.

“The Edgar County Health Department has to act in the best interest of Edgar County, not the state,” she said.

Phillip Stapp sounded a cautionary note about moving too fast. He expressed understanding at the frustration of wanting to get back to work, noting he lost a good paying job and had to take one that pays less. He was also skeptical about the relevancy of the claims that since Edgar County is COVID free the county should be allowed to follow its own path. He noted the tests conducted so far cover less than 2 percent of the population. 

“All of these people saying they are willing to follow the

rules, but only three came in wearing masks,” said Stapp. “No one should die over this. No one should die over something that is preventable.”

Following the comment period, board chairman Jeff Voigt thanked everyone for participating and reminded all the county board, Paris City Council and Horizon Health had previously sent a letter to Gov. Pritzker outlining all of the concerns stated at the meeting. The letter also pointed out Edgar County is already at the stage the governor set for starting to reopen and asked to be allowed to do so.

“The governor has a timeline that keeps moving, and this is a problem,” said Voigt.

He also clarified that if anyone came assuming the county board would pass a resolution declaring the county open, that was not going to happen.

“We are not giving it, because it is not our position to give you permission to open,” said Voigt. “We will endeavor to take steps to help overcome the problem. We need a plan for both the short-and long-term future.”

Voigt cautioned any business owners that decide to reopen to first confer with their insurance providers regarding liability issues.

“You don’t need any bigger problems,” Voigt said.