Maine businesses are anticipating economic losses of over 50 percent in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent statewide survey. The survey was administered by the Maine Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, a collective of local and regional chamber directors and the state chamber, covering every corner of Maine.

Nearly 1,500 businesses responded to our call for input and feedback on the pandemic’s impact and reopening Maine.

As a co-author of the survey and team leader for the results analysis, I can say we were surprised by the magnitude of responses.

The responses, however, were not surprising. They were concerning, particularly for tourism-related businesses. At the same time, they offered a bit of positive news for the future.

Here are a few key takeaways:

• Eight out of 10 lodging and campground respondents expect over 50 percent in economic losses in 2020; two out of three restaurants and one out of two retailers expect the same.

• 48.2 percent of employees who were employed before COVID-19 have been laid off or furloughed; 26 percent of the remaining employees are working reduced hours.

– 80 percent of businesses said it’s “extremely likely” they will be open on this date in 2021 (the positive news); 8 percent said it was “extremely unlikely.”

While much of the findings are disconcerting, we now have a clearer picture of the pandemic’s impact, and a benchmark for looking back to judge the severity of losses and the effectiveness of our response to the virus and the economic challenges it has caused.

Additionally, all Mainers can take heart that, not surprisingly, Maine businesses are committed to doing what it takes to ensure Maine reopens safely. Businesses are being cautious, planning responsibly, implementing safety protocols and are serious about protecting their employees and customers so Maine’s economic recovery is successful.

Businesses were clear in sharing their needs to get through this pandemic, reopen and recover. For example, they need masks, sanitizers and personal protective equipment, and the state is responding to this need. Businesses also want to be a part of the solution to addressing the 14-day quarantine for out-of-state visitors, which poses obvious problems. Regional reopening in Maine, which began May 11, is also key.

Survey responses also made it clear that stemming financial losses is important to businesses, but stopping the spread of the virus is also crucial to the livelihoods and well-being of their employees, communities and Maine as a whole. Maine cannot afford a resurgence or to prolong the pandemic. We have to do this right.

Every Mainer has a role in this, too. We are essential in helping these businesses survive. First, by spending some money, if you can, throughout the state. Plan a staycation in a favorite tourism spot. Eat out a little more often. Buy gift cards. Send an extra gift to a friend for no reason.

There are non-monetary ways you can help businesses, too. Promote your favorite business on social media. Show your friends who you like to support. Demonstrate to others how you can still have fun while social distancing.

Visit Pay It Forward Maine for more ideas on how to support your favorite local establishments.

Yet, a note of caution: If you want to help a favorite business, or a friend who owns a business, please take the appropriate precautions. Wear a mask and gloves, and practice social distancing guidelines while in any business – because those who witness you ignoring those guidelines won’t come back to that business if they don’t feel safe. If you do not respect the need for safety, you’re actively hurting businesses because others may label it unsafe. And word like that spreads. As will the virus if we do not act responsibly.

We’re all in this together, so please be safe, be kind and let’s all do our part to stop this virus. The sooner we do, the better for all of us, and the better the outlook for Maine’s economic future.

 


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