Reopening the economy is an important step to a return to some degree of normalcy, according to two New York state Assemblymembers who held a virtual town hall Thursday to brainstorm with business leaders.
“A Roadmap to Reopening: Looking Towards Your Businesses' Next Steps” examined protocols and procedures businesses might take as they look toward a healthy, sustainable return to commerce. Kate Manley is the president of the Rensselaer County Chamber of Commerce. She says once New York went on pause, the business climate changed for the worse.
"Within the first week this all happened, we surveyed our members and about 42% percent of those surveyed lost 50% or more of their revenue within that first week. And 25% had laid off their entire workforce within that first week. We surveyed again, and 32% of our businesses that we surveyed, only expect to make it with the current conditions, at two more months."
Manley characterized the times as "scary" with some business owners depleting their personal savings to keep their shops afloat.
"With the expanded unemployment, they're having a hard time bringing their workers back if they received those PPP loans. Those dates don't align so you can get extended unemployment through July 31st, but when you get a PPP loan the clock starts ticking up when you need to use that money, and we're hearing that they're struggling to bring workers back. We're also hearing concerns about return to work from a workforce standpoint, whether they be an essential worker, but they're worried about, just nervous about, contracting COVID-19."
Manley adds businesses and employees also face challenges wrought by closed schools and child care issues, not to mention reconfiguring retail spaces to comply with social distancing.
Anthony Gaddy is president of the Upstate New York Black Chamber of Commerce.
"That two-month to four-month window is probably about accurate on the on the whole. It's going to be an adjustment, even when we do reopen for people to find that comfort level and to revisiting their favorite places that are owned by their favorite friends, but now looking at them in terms of through a different lens."
Mark Eagan, President of the Capital Region Chamber of Commerce, worries about small business owners taking matters into their own hands.
"While we're frustrated, this isn't the time for us to go rogue. I think we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. We know in the coming weeks that we are going to start reopening. If we can't meet the May 15th deadline, they can't allow us to have to wait two more weeks."
The town hall was hosted by Democratic state Assemblymembers Pat Fahy and John McDonald.
Fahy says "Small businesses, we've got to get them open in a responsible manner and I will be one of those who will share the dismay if we miss this May 15th, mark of getting some reopening here."
"I think contactlesss or non-contact transactions are going to become a way of life, and we wonder if cash is eventually going to find its final departure from society," said McDonald
Whatever happens on or after May 15th, municipalities facing cuts to services and their public workforces are considering raising taxes and fees on businesses to help compensate for severe budget shortfalls triggered by the pandemic.