County businesses ride out the rises and falls of a rollercoaster year

More than 120 enterprises in the county received a total of just over $6 million through the PPP, which incentivized businesses to keep employees on payroll by offering loan forgiveness to those that retained or rehired their workforce. But even with the vaccines rolling out, the next year remains uncertain. And some businesses continue to battle back from a devastating March and April.

Home Sweet Home?

Housing has long been a topic of discussion in Rappahannock. What’s available? What’s affordable? This report, the first of two, aims to enrich these continuing discussions by analyzing responses from 120 people to a questionnaire we circulated last fall. It also includes expert input based on more than three dozen interviews to paint a clearer picture of the county’s housing situation. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the deep recession it has sparked, the focus on housing is even more timely and important.

County Inns, B&Bs reboot to reopen

When Innkeepers Drew Beard and his wife Deb Harris thought about how they would reopen the Gay Street Inn in Washington amid the COVID-19 pandemic they took a walk through the house and tried to experience it the way a guest would — everything from check-in to book borrowing to evaluating which rooms allowed for some seclusion. The shutdown forced by the pandemic put a massive dent in economic activity. And now, as business slowly resumes under state-issued guidelines, many are rethinking their operations in ways they never could have expected.

Farm to Pantry: Fresh milk from local dairies comes to families in need

The Rappahannock Food Pantry has seen an outpouring of support through donations of time, money and supplies since emergency measures to arrest the spread of COVID-19 took effect in March. Now it’s getting another much-needed contribution — fresh milk — thanks to efforts by the Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC) to connect local food pantries with area dairy farms hit hard by the pandemic’s economic fallout.

One crisis reveals another: COVID-19 exposes big gaps in Rappahannock connectivity

The coronavirus pandemic has exposed long-standing weaknesses in Rappahannock’s internet access as more people try to work from home and students attempt distance learning. That’s true of rural communities across the country, with the pandemic laying bare the deep digital divide that exists between urban and rural areas. It has also drawn renewed attention to the problem and could boost efforts to improve connectivity.

Local banks await additional federal funds for Rappahannock small businesses

Small business owners in this county of 7,000 people have been scrambling for financial assistance to keep their businesses running in the midst of a pandemic. Sarah Meservey, owner of Off the Grid outside Sperryville, was approved for $28,000 in funding from the federal Paycheck Protection Program meant to provide emergency relief to businesses damaged by measures to contain the spread of Covid-19. She knows it's just a bridge, but with so much uncertainty, it's the best one she has. “I think we all are guessing for the future," Meservey said.

‘Virtual tip jar’ provides some relief to workers feeling the squeeze

It’s been nearly a month since Virginia began ordering businesses to shut down to curb the spread of Covid-19, and those who have lost their jobs or had hours dramatically cut are feeling the pain more than ever. More than 16 million people — around 10 percent of American workers — filed for unemployment in the past three weeks. Service industry staff have taken some of the greatest hits since they rely on tips for income. So when the idea of a virtual tip job popped up on the Helping Hannock Facebook group, several people latched on to it.
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