York County businesswomen testify about impact, challenges of COVID-19

HARRISBURG – The Senate Majority Policy Committee conducted an informational meeting on Tuesday that featured two local area businesswomen who testified at the invitation of Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York).

Phillips-Hill said the personal stories from local individuals highlight the many challenges the region experienced in safely, responsibly and intelligently reopening over the last three months.

Kelly Salla, a realtor with Berkshire Hathaway, provided several examples of potential real estate transactions that were delayed due to Pennsylvania’s complete shutdown of the real estate industry.

“Housing is essential. To say realtors have had a challenge is an understatement,” Salla testified. Pennsylvania was the only state in the nation to halt all real estate transactions.

Salla said a couple who serve in the National Guard were seeking to relocate to York County from Delaware. After being pre-approved for a home purchase, the couple was unable to move into the region. Complicating matters, the wife was scheduled to join the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic by starting a new job at WellSpan.

She also shared the story of an older couple that settled on a home in a retirement community but were unable to sell their home.

“We can safely practice real estate. We are doing it now. We are wearing gloves, we are cleaning before and after each showing. Housing is extremely important to all of us,” she said.

Kim Carl, who operates Genesis Golf in Stewartstown, also testified about the challenges over the last three months compared to her 25 years operating a small business.

“Seventy-five percent of our revenue is generated in the spring. To date, we have lost over 70 percent of our annual revenues at this point. It is significant. It has been very dark days,” she said.

Carl’s business sells into four states, including Pennsylvania. She highlighted the varying shutdown measures between the various states and its impact on her business.

“There has been a significant difference how Virginia and Maryland have handled things compared to Governor Wolf. We have economic dollars going across state lines. I am having to send customers across the state line,” she said.  

Carl offered a warning based on her experience throughout the protracted shut down.

“We cannot close again. If we close again this winter, we are going to look very different as a country and community. Most small businesses will not make it,” she added.

She shared her frustration with the state’s lack of help for small businesses during the pandemic, citing her challenge with the state’s unemployment compensation system and available grants and loans for small business. “I am in the fight of my life right now. The state is saying do the right thing and close, but they are offering no help to us.”

Earlier in the day, a bipartisan letter was sent to the Speaker of the House of Representatives encouraging an investigation by the House Government Oversight Committee, chaired by Representative Seth Grove (R-York), into prolonged delays with the state’s unemployment compensation system.

Department of Labor and Industry Secretary Oleksiak indicated on Monday that over 90 percent of unemployment compensation claims have been fulfilled, leaving approximately 200,000 claimants in the dark.

“These stories are not hyperbole. These are firsthand accounts of the nightmare so many have had to endure over the last three months,” Phillips-Hill said. “York County’s proximity to the Maryland border posed great challenges for local business owners and employees over the last three months, who watched a much different approach play out south of the Mason-Dixon line, which led to a loss of business. The governor needs to take these firsthand accounts into consideration should any unilateral decisions be handed down because saving lives and restoring livelihoods are not mutually exclusive goals.”

Kelly Salla’s testimony is below:

Kim Carl’s testimony is below:

More information on the informational meeting can be found here.