In many ways, Adams County consists of two separate economies. One economy is made up of relatively affluent entrepreneurs; professionals employed by the college, Wellspan, legal and financial firms, and employers outside the county; and growing numbers of retirees from higher cost areas. Then there is a second, consisting of people employed in low wage jobs whose life is a daily struggle to get by. Poverty was a serious problem in Adams County even before the Corona virus arrived. Almost a third of local residents (most of them employed) lived below the level of a living wage, even in a time of full employment.
These inequalities worsened significantly when the Corona virus hit. For many in the first economy, “work from home,” Zoom, Netflix, and carryout made the pandemic a minor inconvenience, while for those in the second economy the pandemic threatened financial ruin. The Adams County unemployment rate shot up from less than 5% to nearly 15% and signs of economic hardship were visible immediately. Tourism was reduced to nearly zero for several months and bars and restaurants were forced to close. Since the area began to partially reopen in May, there has been a modest improvement. But it is likely that the worst impacts of the pandemic haven’t been felt yet. Special unemployment assistance and assistance to businesses have run out, eviction protections are subject to termination, the recovery of tourism has been weak, and the vast achievement gap in local schools has undoubtedly grown more severe.