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(Rock County, WI) The results from the statewide COVID-19 impact assessment are in and those findings underscore just how fragile the economic landscape has become in a relatively short period of time. Statewide, 35% of the businesses participating in the assessment reported that closures are on the horizon if the current pandemic-related conditions persist more than three months. The impact assessment represents a collaborative statewide project – engaging various local, county, regional and statewide economic and workforce development partners – that collected and analyzed data during the first ten days of April 2020, from nearly 2,550 businesses.

The results provide a chilling view of how Wisconsin’s COVID-19 related public health mandates have impacted businesses. Economic losses, particularly those related to business income, were pegged at $126 million. Meanwhile, inventory losses were estimated at $95 million and direct employee wage (and productivity) losses were projected at more than $26 million. Other direct, as well as indirect, economic impacts were valued at $404 million. At the time this data was collected, respondents were already reporting job losses at about 8,800.

Nearly 120 businesses from the Janesville-Beloit MSA participated in the survey and their feedback mirrors (albeit scaled and proportional) what was reported statewide: $1 million in lost business income; inventory losses at $4 million; and other related negative impacts were estimated at $1 million. The number of job losses were already reported nearing the 250 level. “This type of initial quantitative data paints a bleak picture, and this is exactly why the County recently approved its COVID-19 Emergency Small Business Loan Fund,” said James Otterstein, Rock County’s Economic Development Manager.

“The conditions reported here represent companies’ efforts to adapt to changing conditions,” said Jeffrey Sachse, director of UWO’s Center for Customized Research and Services (CCRS). “These impacts are certain to rise when we revisit these companies in a month, two months and six months’ time. The assistance that these companies require and the effects felt throughout the state’s economy are both unprecedented and continuous.”

Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes said the report “reinforces a lot of what I’m hearing when I talk with businesses; and Our Wisconsin Ready effort will provide additional guidance and resources as we begin our state’s recovery efforts.” 

“Responding firms suggested that their greatest immediate needs are access to greater liquidity in the form of low-interest loans, grants and access to customers. This closely mimics trends reflected in the national policy debate and recent surveys reported by the Federal Reserve Board and Small Business Administration,” Sachse said. 

This statewide survey is the first in a series that will track the economic impacts of COVID-19. Responding companies will be surveyed again, during the next three months and likely into the foreseeable future, with results released during the third week of each month. Companies are invited to continue to respond to the initial survey at http://uwo.sh/covid-19-econ-disruption . For additional information about the survey and its results, including accessing interactive countywide and/or regional data reports, visit http://uwosh.edu/ccrs/covid-19-survey .

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