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With New State Restrictions, Restaurant Workers Say They Need Federal Support

Matt Rourke
Governor Tom Wolf's new restrictions went into effect Saturday, eliminating indoor dining. A Pittsburgh bartender says the restrictions mean she has to work more for less money.

On today's program: After Governor Tom Wolf’s announcement, two local restaurant workers explain why new COVID-19 restrictions mean more Pennsylvanians will struggle to stay afloat, and another stimulus/relief package is needed; and with the Electoral College convening today, veteran political reporter John Micek describes what’s at stake for Republicans who don’t fall in line with the president’s calls to reject election results.

Restaurant workers respond to the governor’s latest coronavirus restrictions
(0:00 - 9:53)

Gov. Tom Wolf’s latest round of restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus went into effect this weekend.

Restaurants are limited to take-out service or outdoor dining.

Lissa Brennan, a bartender at Over the Bar Bicycle Cafe, says the new restrictions simply mean she works more hours for less money. She’s a front of house employee, meaning she depends on tips. Brennan says she’s noticed people don’t tip on take-out orders.

“My thought is that what restaurants need is not to have to come up with other ways to work around restrictions, but to be given funding that allows us to shut down and not have to worry about restrictions,” says Brennan.

Not being operational in the holidays is a big financial hit, says Brennan.

Taylor Stessney co-founded the Pittsburgh Restaurant Workers Aid to support those in the industry with food, toiletries, and other goods during the pandemic. She’s seeing more concern about meeting basic necessities like food and rent, especially as parents are hoping to provide gifts to their kids. The Pittsburgh Restaurant Workers Aid recently started a coats and gift drive for children.

“Just having this kind of happen all of a sudden once again is just putting everyone into this feeling of uncertainty,” says Stessney, referencing statewide restrictions that temporarily shuttered some businesses back in March.

When that happened, Stessney and her co-founder Kacy McGill launched a GoFundMe campaign to provide aid. They raised about $60,000 to give small cash grants of $150 dollars to people. Stessney compares the grants to the federal stimulus check: it was good, but this far in the pandemic, people need more help, she says.

Brennan says life in the pandemic, with restrictions, then without, and now with, has “been a constant state of fight or flight.”

What’s next for state Republicans? A veteran political journalist gives his analysis
(9:55 - 17:55)

Members of the Electoral College, including 20 from Pennsylvania gather today to vote, confirming Joe Biden’s victory.

This will take place, despite numerous legal maneuvers by President Donald Trump to overturn certified election results.

Veteran politics reporter and Pennsylvania Capital Star editor-in-chief John Micek says some of those efforts, like the President reaching out directly to Pennsylvania House Speaker Bryan Cutler won’t have any impact, per state election code.

Micek says this political maneuvering is unlike any he’s seen in his career.

“We are living in unprecedented, and incredible, and frankly dangerous times right now,” says Micek, noting that about 80 percent of Congress is not willing to accept Joe Biden as the president-elect and next president of the United States.

Pennsylvania tate Rep. Mike Kelly petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to take up a case that would have thrown out some Pennslyvanians’ votes. The Supreme Court denied his plea.

“It’s sadly, depressing the degree to which so many Republicans, including Representative Kelly, have fallen meekly in line with the destruction the White House is wreaking on our democratic process,” adds Micek.

President Trump has yet to concede the election, even as judges continue to reject attempts to challenge the results.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

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