Help for a struggling Sussex economy?

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Good afternoon,

This hasn’t been a good week or for that matter a good year for Sussex County.

The latest blow came when Washington, D.C. issued a quarantine order for travelers to and from Delaware, a decision that makes life tougher for businesses at the beach. It follows, the Tri-State area (Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey imposing the same restriction.

At last report, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia have advisories on out of state travel, but no orders.

The metric which punishes states like Delaware with high testing rates is based on positive cases being higher than 10 per 100,000 residents over a 7-day average. Pennsylvania, by contrast, tests at about half the rate of Delaware.

Delaware has been falling slightly above the 10 per 100,000 thresholds with cases running about 100 a day.

It is also clear that the tourism-dependent Sussex County economy is struggling.

The Opportunity Insights economic tracker from Harvard and Brown universities paints a troubling picture.

The accompanying chart on small business sales from Opportunity Insights shows Sussex with a nearly 22 percent drop in small business sales activity. That’s more than double the rate for the state as a whole.

In a letter to Gov. John Carney, Carol Everhart, the longtime president of the powerful Rehoboth-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce suggests that the state move more aggressively toward Phase 3 and do a better job of communicating to the public that businesses are open.

She pointed to the economic damage suffered by the county and the positive metrics in the state’s battle against coronavirus.

It is unlikely that the state will move toward Phase 3 anytime soon, especially with Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland pausing the reopening process, due to an uptick in positives, some from the Ocean City area. That area like the Delaware beaches has seen outbreaks centered around the hospitality industry.

What Delaware needs to do is come up with an economic recovery plan from CARES Act funds.

While restrictions are many, one idea would be for New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer work to devote some of the $300 million in funds that went to the state’s most populous county to provide assistance to small businesses around the state. The state is reportedly looking at the same issue.

A quirk in the CARES Act gave extra money to counties with a half a million or more residents on the assumption that most jurisdictions provide social services. That’s not the case with New Castle, which ended up with $300 million.

The history of Delaware has been marked by mutual assistance when it comes to fires or other catastrophes. Right now, Sussex is smoldering. –Doug Rainey, chief content officer.

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