A survey to quantify impacts to Kenai Peninsula businesses from the COVID-19 pandemic shows disheartening results.
The Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District collected responses throughout the borough last week and crunched the numbers over the weekend. Executive Director Tim Dillon says the cheeriest number was participation.
“I was hoping for 250, 300 responses from businesses on the peninsula and, low and behold, we had 721 businesses across the borough respond. I have 45 pages of comments,” Dillon said.
Responses came from 19 sectors, the largest number of respondents being in tourism and hospitality. The businesses and nonprofit organizations have as few as zero to five staff up to more than 100. Most were small businesses, with one to five people employed.
Though survey participants represent a wide spectrum, there were some, unfortunately, unifying results.
“Ninety-one point nine percent of the businesses said that they’ve experienced some kind of a disruption in their business due to COVID-19 and 84 percent of them have said that they’ve seen a decline in revenue in the last 30 days,” Dillon said.
More than 120 businesses responding said their revenue decrease had been 91 to 100 percent. Fifty-seven percent said they’ve laid off workers due to COVID-19. Nearly 37 percent said they expect to make cuts in the future, and just shy of 40 percent said they are considering cutting staff.
"Probably the scariest slide that we had was the question, ‘Is your business at risk of closing permanently because of this impact?’ And 24.2 percent said yes,” Dillon said.
Forty-four percent said they were unsure.
“So all of a sudden, you’ve got almost 69 percent of the businesses that responded to the survey that potentially could be closed,” he said.
And that’s only after a few weeks of restrictions due to COVID-19. Dillon says KPEDD plans to run the survey again in a few weeks to see how the numbers are changing. He expects, for the worst.
“If you take a step back, one person identified, they said, ‘We had the earthquake, then we had the fire, now we have this. How much more can we take?’” Dillon said.
Dillon says the comments submitted with the survey are what really paint the picture of what’s happening. One person wrote that he owns his own business that does work outside the home and supports his elderly parents. He also lives with his parents and is afraid to go to work for the risk of bringing home the virus but also is afraid of not having income to be able to pay the family’s bills.
The tourism and hospitality sector is particularly devastated by government mandates related to the pandemic. Here’s another comment:
“'Typically, we would have received $35,000 to $40,000 in deposits in March. There has been zero this year. But our insurance is still due, which is $40,000 a year, not to mention our regular bills.’ So, that’s real.”
KPEDD is sharing the survey results with Alaska’s congressional delegation, legislators, municipalities and community organizations. They plan to post the survey results on their website, www.kpedd.org, under the News and Events tab.
KDLL will have much more from Dillon in this week’s Kenai Conversation. Tune in at 10 a.m. Wednesday to hear more about the survey results plus what’s happening to help businesses in these difficult times.