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Survey: Majority of upstate businesses have suffered during pandemic

Less than one-third of Upstate New York CEOs expect the state’s economy to return to pre-virus levels of revenue and employment within the next six months, a new report from Siena College Research Institute shows.

Source: SCRI

Source: SCRI

The Upstate New York Business Leader COVID-19 Survey, sponsored by the Business Council of New York State Inc., shows that just 5 percent of business leaders have not suffered due to the pandemic and 35 percent think their businesses will recover within six months. One-quarter of CEOs say their businesses will recover by the end of 2020, while 35 percent don’t think their businesses will return to pre-virus levels until next year.

Nearly 60 percent of survey respondents say New York’s primary focus should be addressing the public health crisis for the time being, while 35 percent think the state should plan to relax restrictions on business operations and move towards being back in business by the beginning of May.

“Despite having to lay off workers and downgrade economic projections, a majority of upstate CEOs agree with the sentiment expressed by one CEO: ‘People and health first; the economy can wait.’ The good news is that virtually all the CEOs we interviewed expect their business to survive this crisis,” said SCRI’s director Don Levy. “And 61 percent think that New York State’s ‘social distancing’ efforts, including restrictions on business operations in order to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 have been about right.”

Current expectations for revenues and profits – because of COVID-19 – compared to 2020 projections are down significantly, according to the report. Eighty-nine percent predict somewhat or significantly less revenue for the year, and 87 percent forecast somewhat or significantly fewer profits.

Some 40 percent of upstate businesses already have laid off employees and an additional 8 percent anticipate more layoffs by August 1. Fifty-eight percent now plan to purchase fewer fixed assets in 2020 than they did when the year began.

Nearly half of upstate CEOs are confident that the New York State government will take the appropriate steps to assist businesses to weather the impacts of COVID-19, while 50 percent are not very or not at all confident. Some 59 percent are confident that the federal government will take the appropriate steps to assist businesses to recover from the virus’s effects.

Eighty-six percent are somewhat or very familiar with the new and expanded U.S. Small Business Administration loan provisions. Nearly three-quarters plan to participate in the SBA Paycheck Protection Program, while more than one-quarter plan to participate in the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program.

“This virus has turned life upside down for virtually every New York business, just as it has for nearly every New Yorker. Almost every CEO took steps to protect staff and clients from the virus, more than three-quarters have employees working from home, two-thirds have canceled planned initiatives and almost half have borrowed in order to meet ongoing expenses. And 44 percent have had clients say that the check is not in the mail,” Levy said.

“The results of this poll showed what many expected; businesses are hurting, especially smaller businesses and those in sectors whose operations have been most impacted by the reasonable state-imposed restrictions,” said Heather Briccetti, president and CEO of the Business Council of New York State. “Perhaps the most encouraging result showed employers expect their own companies and their industry sectors to recovery by early 2021.

“At the Business Council we will continue to work with our elected leaders to convey the needs of the business community for a successful economic restart, recognizing that this will only be done as fast as public health considerations allow,” Briccetti added. “The good news is, there’s real opportunity for New York State to partner with the private sector, who understands what it will require to ensure a stronger economy moving forward.”

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