How Hurricane Florence cost Hampton Roads workers


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Despite the fact that Hampton Roads dodged a bullet with Hurricane Florence, some local workers and businesses are paying a price.

Many closed for days after the governor’s evacuation order went out.

Fred Shoenfeld, owner of  the Commodore Theater in Old Towne Portsmouth, closed after the Governor’s order to evacuate Zone A .

RELATED: Emergency officials stand by mandatory evacuation of ‘Zone A’ areas of Virginia

“Even though it was sun-shiny on Tuesday and Wednesday,” he said.

He reopened on Thursday and took a small financial hit — as did his employees who didn’t get paid for those days.

Old Dominion University economics professor Vinod Agrwal told 10 On Your Side that hourly workers are the real losers when hurricanes, snowstorms or other disasters force businesses to close.

“There are always losers and the gainers,  so grocery stores had an enormous amount of sales hardware stores had an enormous amount of sales,” Agarwal said.

He has no hard numbers to share. He says he doesn’t know how many hourly workers there are in Hampton Roads,  but he urges business owners and communities take this opportunity to consider what they’ll do next time.

“Somehow I think the businesses should come up with some plans to take care of those people at this time.”

Some larger franchises have disaster pay for employees, but most mom and pop places cannot afford  that.

Shoenfeld says he does what he can, “I know these folks count on their paychecks.”  He told that he keeps employees on the clock on slow nights when it would benefit him to just close early.

For him it’s just another cost of doing business and doing right by workers in a community that certainly has not seen its last storm.

“We all sort of band together and help each other out and keep our fingers crossed, it’s all we can do.”

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