Wednesday morning, traffic flowed on the main thoroughfares in downtown Huntington, although at a lesser rate than normal as people obeyed the stay-at-home order issued by Gov. Jim Justice on Monday. On-street parking was widely available. In most cases, you could get a meter in front of the place you wanted to go, assuming that place would let you in, although metered spots on some streets were all taken.
A few walkers and joggers enjoyed Ritter Park on the damp, chilly morning, although, again, not nearly as many as usual.
Anyone wanting to visit a family member in a hospital had to meet the hospital’s stringent anti-infection rules for entry.
The freedom of movement cherished by Americans has come to a halt.
The effects of the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, will be felt for months if not years. The president and Congress are doing what they can on a national scale, and governors have taken the lead on dealing with the virus’ effects closer to home.
Here, communities are doing their parts. The Huntington City Council could be about to take a painful but necessary step to ease some of the pain locally.
Last week, Huntington Mayor Steve Williams announced a plan to help people and businesses affected by the pandemic. Monday night the City Council gave first reading to an ordinance putting that plan into effect. It will give the ordinance its second and final reading at a special call meeting on March 31.
Williams said the city wanted to take measures immediately to help people and businesses affected by the outbreak. He said his fear is that if restaurants and retail shops close because of the virus outbreak, they may not reopen once the outbreak is over.
The ordinance will reduce B&O taxes for those establishments from 2.5% to 0%. Williams said he also wants to suspend the $20-a-month refuse fee for residents. The savings might not be a lot to some people, but it could make the difference for anyone out of work because of the virus, he said.
Halting B&O taxes for three months will cost the city about $500,000. The loss of refuse fees will cost the city $750,000.
To cover the loss of $1.25 million in revenue, Williams said the city would tighten its expenses and delay any unnecessary purchases.
Any government entity that relies on taxes — that’s the great majority of them — will have to make cutbacks as we make our way through this pandemic. That will mean some things will have to be delayed. If we must live with a few more unfilled potholes, so be it.
A large number of people in the area are seeing their incomes reduced by the stay-at-home orders that are in place. Not everyone can work from home. That’s particularly true of part-time workers, and it’s true of a number of self-employed people such as barbers and hair stylists. Businesses are closing because people can’t get to them or people are trimming their discretionary spending.
We all have to make cutbacks, and cutbacks come with a price.
The action pondered by the city council and the mayor likely will be duplicated by other agencies. It’s a difficult step, but a necessary one.
It could take years to recover from the events of the past month, but steps have to be taken now by everyone — by government and by private citizens — to reduce the damage this virus has wrought on our communities and our lives.