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Sen. JD Vance proposes PPP-type program, other resources to help businesses, people in East Palestine

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Posted at 9:55 PM, Feb 28, 2023

Kay’s Kuttin’ Korral has been a North Market Street staple in East Palestine for 39 years for those looking to get their hair done. Kay Biegenwald always has a steady flow in her chair, but as of late?

“I do a lot of people who aren’t from East Palestine and they aren’t coming, yeah they’re not coming,” she said.

Of those who have canceled on her, some have cited the lingering safety concerns; others have cited the parking shortage along North Market brought on by the influx of outside media. Down the block, Joy Mascher, who owns Flowers Straight From The Heart, also heard from customers who are concerned it’s not safe to come to her flower shop.

“A lot of people have said they won’t come to East Palestine because of what’s happened,” she said. “So that’s very concerning. We’ve struggled being a small business as it is. We had to deal with COVID, we shut down like they asked us to, so it’s tough, it’s tough.”

Thinking about how the government helped small businesses stay afloat during COVID with the Payroll Protection Program got Senator JD Vance (R-OH) thinking.

“Just go back to recent history in our country you have the TARP (Troubled Assets Relief) program that bailed out the big banks, you had the PPP (Paycheck Protection) program that really protected people’s paychecks who were laid off through no fault of their own because their businesses had been shut down during the COVID pandemic,” Vance told News 5. “I think we need to take a similar approach in East Palestine to recognize a lot of people are going to suffer economically and financially through no fault of their own because of this disaster. You need resources to address that problem.”

He said he believed it’s something that could be done fairly easily. “You frankly don’t need that many resources because East Palestine is about 5,000 people, so this is a very small amount of money in the overall federal budget,” he said.

Another impact on all of this is property values. News 5 spoke with two local realtors who did not want to go on camera. While they said it’s simply too early to know yet the impact on home values there, it’s most likely not going to be good. And home values impact property taxes, which, in Ohio, fund schools and other services. It’s a cascading effect, Vance said.

“When these home values go down, people get underwater on their mortgage, that causes financial stress at home, it also means that the local tax base is effected, local services, of course, the public schools are affected,” he said. “You have a community where, between home values, small businesses, people getting laid off, the economic effects of this are going to be felt for years in East Palestine. We can either ignore the community and leave it behind or we can make the proper investments necessary to help East Palestine get back on its feet. That’s a very very easy question for me.”

Biegenwald, for one, said she likes the idea.

“I’m not looking to make any money, but I’m looking at my week’s paycheck that I lost,” she said.

Mascher, though, has her concerns.

“Maybe,” she said when asked if a PPP-type program would be good for East Palestine businesses. “But for the taxpayers to have to pay for it? That’s not right. This should be all on the railroad.”

Vance agrees the railroad should pay, not taxpayers, but in the short term, he said the federal government putting up the money is the right thing to do.

“As a threshold matter, Norfolk Southern should be paying the bill here, but however the money ultimately comes, I don’t want to leave East Palestine behind,” he said. “The people of East Palestine did nothing wrong, they didn’t ask for a train to derail in their community, they didn’t ask for that terrible chemical spill to happen. They are dealing with it, they are rebuilding their community as we speak. The question is, what do we do for them? And I think the answer should be everything they need.”