With more than a week and a half to go before the election, small-business owners in Pennsylvania are reflecting on where they are now, after Donald Trump won the state in 2016, the first time a Republican presidential nominee did so since 1988.
“I just got done having the best three years of my professional life,” said Matt Flinchbaugh, owner of Flinchy’s restaurant in Camp Hill. “If you look at the actual policies that he’s put in place, whether it’s trade, whether it’s taxes, capital gains, corporate tax … all things that help businesses survive.”
Flinchbaugh voted for Trump four years ago, and says that since then, his restaurant, which he has operated for 17 years, has grown 60 to 70 percent in the last three years. His success even prompted him to open a second restaurant, Home Slice, in Mechanicsburg, last November.
Flinchbaugh plans to vote for Trump again this year, telling NBC News he worries that a Joe Biden presidency would bring more shutdowns and the economy could take a turn for the worse.
“He wants to shut the economy down,” Flinchbaugh said. “He wants to enforce a mask mandate everywhere. Again, a blanket approach to a problem that isn’t everywhere in America.”
Flinchbaugh acknowledges shortcomings during Trump’s term in office, particularly in health care. “That’s probably my biggest disappointment — especially in the first two years when they [Republicans] controlled the House and the Senate. They didn’t have anything set for that. I’m extremely disappointed in the health care in this country.”
Health care is an important issue for many small-business owners. Joshua Mast, who owns an event space and a restaurant in Scranton, said the past four years have been difficult, especially in terms of providing health care to his employees.
“I would have to say over the past four years we have not been better off,” Mast said. “It would definitely take one level of stress away if [health] insurance was paid for or even reasonable. For any small business, that’s a huge burden.”
Mast plans to vote for former Vice President Joe Biden on Nov. 3, as he thinks Biden will look out for small-business owners like himself. “I feel right now we need somebody who knows Washington, who is going to do something for the small-business owner and who’s going to get something done.”
Both small-business owners have had economic hardship during the pandemic. The service industry was hit hard during mandatory shutdowns and, while Mast received a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program, he still had to find work for himself elsewhere, and is currently working two jobs while operating his event space and restaurant at limited capacity.
While Mast focuses on keeping his business alive, he continues to worry what will happen over the next four years if Trump is re-elected.
“I will continue to have side hustles, as they say, to be able to keep my business open,” he said. “But I will not be able to grow if we have another four years of this president.”
Kori Lynch and Mary Godie contributed.