U.S. Senator Bob Casey heard about the challenges of local businesses at a roundtable meeting held Monday in Danville. Common themes among the participants included the cost of health insurance, challenges of recruiting employees, lack of broadband in rural areas, and burdensome regulations. The meeting was organized by the Danville Business Alliance and held at Old Forge Brewing Company.
The approximately 30 attendees represented a cross-section of business types including members: Bason Coffee Roasting, Pine Barn Inn, G.S. Woods Financial Solutions, U.S. Gypsum, and Danville Child Development Center. Recruiting quality employees continues to be a challenge for all sizes and types of employers. Specific issues cited at the roundtable included the need to support skilled trades education, wages levels, and the inability for small businesses to afford health insurance coverage for their employees.
Following the recent failed attempts at repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, Senator Casey stated that there have been “more positive discussions about health care in the last ten days than in the last ten months.” He expects that targeted reforms to the existing legislation will advance in September. Improving the affordability of health insurance for small business owners and their non-subsidized employees will take longer, he admitted.
Another widespread hindrance to business growth is burdensome regulations. Larger employers talked about excessive environmental regulations while smaller employers asked for clarification on how certain rules might apply to their businesses. Legislation has already passed the House and has been introduced in the Senate (S. 951) which would require more public input and transparency in government agency rulemaking. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and PA Chamber of Business and Industry are supporting this legislation. Senator Casey did not express his opinion on the bill.
Lack of broadband internet access in rural areas such as northern parts of Montour and Columbia counties also prohibits business development. The Senator has petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to keep federal dollars intended for infrastructure expansion in Pennsylvania. He feels that a long-term solution is a nationwide infrastructure enhancement package. The Columbia Montour Chamber has advocated for improved broadband and telecommunications infrastructure to both federal and state legislators.
Senator Casey thanked the participants for their input and pledged follow up on a number of specific questions.