The historic depths of the economic impacts of COVID-19 and key factors in reopening the economy are outlined in a survey of nearly 1,400 business leaders conducted by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce.
In conjunction, the Indiana Chamber has submitted specific return-to-work recommendations to Gov. Eric Holcomb and his economic recovery team.
On a scale of 1-10 (with 10 representing the highest level), 56% of respondents in Indiana’s Road to Economic Recovery survey ranked the impact on their own business at 8, 9, or 10. The average of the 1,393 respondents was 7.24. The biggest effects thus far include revenue loss, 80%; cash flow concerns, 51%; suspended operations, 34%, and employee layoffs, 32%.
“As we have experienced over the past six-plus weeks, the unprecedented stay-at-home requirements and the ongoing uncertainty associated with the pandemic are major factors in the impact on businesses,” says Kevin Brinegar, Indiana Chamber president, and CEO. “When a business suffers, employees and their families suffer. We look forward to all beginning to recover together.”
Forty-three percent of those participating in the survey received Paycheck Protection Program loans, while 33% were awaiting an answer when initial funding was depleted.
Key findings (graphics available at www.indianachamber.com/charts) on returning to work include:
- When should businesses resume operations: Identical responses of 400 each (33%) to “after May 1” and “when more widespread testing has taken place.” Of the 26% in the “other” category, the predominant response was “as soon as possible”
- How long can your business survive after May 1 under current restrictions: 37% under six months (23% under three months); 33% longer than six months; 29% not sure
- Primary challenges to returning to “normal”: 48% customer retention; 46% finances; 38% personnel; 32% supply chain
- Will you resume operations with fewer employees: 55% no; 25% not sure; 21% yes
The survey of Indiana Chamber members and investors was conducted on April 16-22. More than 55% of participants have fewer than 50 employees, with 20% between 100 and 500 employees. A broad cross-section of industries was represented with manufacturing accounting for nearly 25% of the total.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” Brinegar adds. “Businesses and their employees are hurting. The survey reinforces the importance of resuming business activity as soon as possible, with the appropriate levels of safety in place.”
The Indiana Chamber used the survey results, ongoing direct communications with members statewide and knowledge of business operations to form its recommendations to the Governor on re-opening businesses, Brinegar notes.
Among the steps the organization suggests:
Statewide return-to-work safety guidelines (for employees and customers). Uniform guidelines established by appropriate state/federal officials will provide certainty of procedures and instill confidence in the workforce. Suggested topics to cover include mask usage, social distancing, disinfecting strategies, testing protocol and mental health.
Legal protection order through the Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration (IOSHA) or other state agencies. Companies need assurance that as long as they are abiding by the state return-to-work safety guidelines (as noted above) and any additional IOSHA guidelines based on their industry that they are immune from lawsuits if an employee contracts COVID-19 after returning to work. At a minimum, a thorough state-led examination of liability issues is needed.
Set COVID-19 testing standards and expectations. Increased testing will not only speed the return-to-work process but also provide greater peace of mind to all Hoosiers.
Formalize state support for small businesses. A variety of initiatives – additional state or private sector investments; accelerated government payments to business vendors; potential tax credits and exemptions; and more – were proposed for consideration in the effort to assist small businesses.
Continued support for telecommuting and ensure reliable, high-speed broadband. In the short term, telecommuting seems the best course of action for employees across many industries. While Indiana is blessed to have quality broadband service reliability through various providers, state/federal assistance to strengthen internet capabilities should be deployed to any rural area where service may be lacking.
The Indiana Chamber’s Employer Coronavirus Resources page, available at www.indianachamber.com/coronavirus, will be shifting to an Economic Road to Recovery center over the next week to further help employers and their workers get back to business.