The City of Tucson Office of Economic Initiatives has been focused entirely on helping small business navigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. We immediately began staffing up our small business hotline in order to field calls coming from the business community trying to understand and interpret each new state or local executive order that was issued in the early days of this crisis. In the first four weeks, we fielded over 100 calls and offered referrals to local business resource partners who could offer business counseling and financial assistance.
We reacted quickly by standing up a weekly webinar on Monday afternoons at 3 pm, now heading into its fifth week, to share resources with small businesses and connect them to the latest information and updates from our partner organizations. We have averaged more than 80 participants on each webinar and have had more than 500 downloads of the recorded webinars posted each week on our city’s youTube channel. We posted all resources and links to webinars on our website at www.connectTucson.com, a website we just launched in February as the City of Tucson’s first standalone economic development website.
We have now created a Tucson Resiliency Loan Program in order to provide additional financial assistance to local small businesses that have been hit the hardest in our community. Mayor & Council have authorized $500,000 and will consider an additional allocation of $500,000 on Tuesday, April 21. This comes just on the heels of recent news of SBA’s PPP program having expended all its funds. We hope that Congress will authorize a second round of funding as these federal programs are still extremely important to the success of small business and their ability to survive this pandemic.
Our team has also reinforced its outreach specifically to the monolingual Spanish speaking business community that is so prevalent in Tucson. We will be proactively reaching out to this sector of our population in order to ensure they are receiving the information and access to resources and assistance in order to further enhance their survival rate. These businesses make up a large part of our retail, restaurant and service economy locally, and it is essential that they have the same access and support available to them in their native language.
We completed our first web-based survey of businesses which gave us some key insights of how COVID-19 is impacting our local business community. More than 380 businesses responded by March 30 and a few notable trends are highlighted below:
- 1/3 of businesses reported being closed (96 of 286 that answered that question)
- 48% were forced closures
- Most are still able to receive a majority of the supplies/services they need to operate
- Most are still able to deliver/ship goods and services
- 38% changed their employee count due to COVID-19
- More than 80% are paying their employees even if unable to work right now
- 85% report decreases in weekly revenue
- 62% do not have standing lines of credit
- 22% could make it 4 weeks before closure
- 14% could make it 12 weeks before closure
- Biggest concerns: Financial Impact on operations (67%), decreased consumer confidence (55%), and global/US recession (49%)
- 24% say they will make permanent reductions to their workforce in next three months (between 1 and 50 people with one respondent suggesting 90 people could lose their jobs)
- Top needs include employee resources and assistance referrals
We will be launching a follow up survey next week in order to assess the impacts now more than two weeks later. This survey was part of a national survey effort coordinated by Blane-Canada, an international economic development firm. Our participation will help inform the national and international data as they aggregate responses from communities all across North America.
We will continue to find ways to offer relief to our small businesses as they move through this challenging time. It is our goal that they recover quickly and recover strong.
Submitted by the City of Tucson Office of Economic Initiatives.
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