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More than 1,800 WNY businesses feel deep impact from COVID-19, survey finds

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Posted at 11:38 AM, May 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-05 11:38:26-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Revenue losses, cost reductions, furloughs and hiring freezes: results from the Western New York COVID-19 Business Impact Survey paint a dire picture of the short- and long-term financial impact the pandemic will have on the region's economy.

Two-thirds of more than 1,800 business owners who participated in the study reported implementing a staffing change, including reducing positions or adjusting wages. Additionally, 60% of respondents have implemented a hiring freeze, and more than one-third of businesses have had layoffs or furloughs.

"For those of us monitoring the fallout from COVID-19, the results of the survey are not shocking, but they are a stark indicator of how much work lies ahead for the public and private sectors as our community pivots to recovery," said Dottie Gallagher, President & CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership.

93% of respondents are experiencing a decline in revenue, related to COVID-19. Most report a loss of 50% or less of expected revenue.

The majority of the businesses included in the survey were within the professional services, retail, construction and manufacturing industries. 81% of respondents employ 50 people or fewer.

One of the biggest concerns for the community, the survey found, is the permanent closure of local small businesses. The biggest challenge is revenue/sales: 79% of business owners said a decline in revenue/sales is their most pressing short-term issue, and 73% of respondents said revenue/sales will remain their top issue in the long-term.

As New York State prepares for a gradual re-opening of the economy beginning May 15, the majority of businesses locally will be operating with the help of federal business assistance loans. 75% of respondents applied for, or are planning to apply for, federal loans.

When asked how the government can be most helpful moving forward, more than half of business owners surveyed said they could benefit from a payroll tax cut and the expansion/streamlining of federal loan programs.

If there is a silver lining to be found in this economic turmoil, Gallagher noted last week during an interview with 7 Eyewitness News that the Buffalo Niagara Partnership has received several “site” inquiries from some businesses downstate, and others looking toward Buffalo as an expansion city.

“So as to not be all concentrated in a New York City building for example,” she said. “To spread the risk, and the opportunities right now makes Buffalo very attractive for that.”

Other key findings:

- Three out of five businesses have postponed investment, many of them indefinitely
- 51% of businesses are reducing variable costs
- 43% are reducing fixed costs
- One in five respondents still do not have a functioning remote plan in place

Gallagher will be detailing the survey results in a webinar on Wednesday at 1 p.m.