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Wisconsin businesses anticipate impact of COVID-19 continue through 2020, per UW-Oshkosh survey

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OSHKOSH, Wis. (WFRV) – In a second statewide survey by the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, many responding Wisconsin businesses anticipate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic to continue through 2020 and beyond.

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Jeffrey Sachse, director of UWO’s Center for Customized Research and Services (CCRS) says 23 percent of responding businesses reported not being able to remain open beyond three months if the current conditions persist. Despite that, 32 percent said they would likely survive beyond 10 months under current conditions points to a ‘greater sense of resilience,’ according to Sachse.

“The cumulative impact of the survey results in April and May tell the story of businesses first responding to the emergency of the immediate impacts and now reassessing their new, long-term reality,” Sachse said.

UWO, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, New North, and eight other Regional Leadership Council organizations to assess COVID-19 recovery ability and state and federal aid efforts, are partnering to conduct the survey project. Additional collaborators include the Wisconsin Technology Council and the Wisconsin Workforce Development Association.

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Respondents to the second survey, administered between May 4 and 17, represent more than 67,000 employees across the state. The first survey ran April 1-10.

UWO says key findings in the May survey included respondents reporting April losses of 9,816 employees due to layoffs and furloughs in addition to the 8,795 reported for March. Officials say businesses also reported losses of $28.8 million in inventory, a 62 percent decrease from April, $78.9 million in income, a 7.2 percent decrease from April, and losses in wages and productivity totaling $26 million, a 56 percent increase from April.

Researchers say businesses reported other financial impacts of $118.6 million, a 62 percent decrease from April.

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UWO says it is important to note that all losses are considered cumulative.

“It is encouraging to see reductions in inventory and income losses, though respondents are less optimistic about their ability to recoup these losses. It will be equally critical to trace the survivability of vulnerable firms now that we have started to reopen the state’s economy,” Sachse said.

Of the businesses reporting, 65 percent reported being open at the time of the May survey, with 74 percent expressing confidence that they will be able to reopen soon.

Officials say May’s survey asked two questions of interest to the Wisconsin Bankers Association and Wisconsin Technology Council.

Seventy-five percent of respondents reported seeking some form of financial assistance in the past month (Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan, etc.). Only 61 percent of respondents reported receiving assistance, Sachse said.

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Respondents also reported access to capital and customers remain their most pressing needs. The most pressing information technology workforce needs reported both before and during the crisis are in IT support – 18.3 percent – and network operations – 9.6 percent – according to UWO.

Sachse added that 1,151 businesses responded to both the April and May surveys, representing a retention rate of 47.1 percent period over period. An additional 235 new businesses responded to the May survey. Data is reported with an error rate of plus or minus 3 percent based on a respondent pool of 452,000 active Wisconsin businesses.

On May 27, it was announced that Fond du Lac’s Schreiner’s Restaurant would close permanently after over 80 years in business due to financial challenges created by COVID-19.

On the cusp of Memorial Day weekend, The Cannery in Green Bay announced it would close its door permanently due to challenges imposed by the virus.

Coronavirus has been the last straw for many Northeast Wisconsin businesses – Foremost Farms USA announced it will close its Chilton cheese plant facility in July after the market change due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In early May, Harbor House announced Neenah’s JumpStart Auto Repair, which used the proceeds from customers’ auto service to fund auto repairs for domestic abuse survivors, would not reopen, saying the decision comes after the financial strain caused by a shift in business due to the pandemic followed the discovery that property had been stolen from JumpStart’s garage.

In the same time frame, Harmony Pizza of Appleton announced it would be closing its doors after nearly three years in business, citing pressures to achieve a strong service to the community and the coronavirus.

Manitowoc’s Holy Family College announced it would cease operations by the end of August. The Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity Sponsored Ministries says the decision was made due to increased operating costs, unstable enrollment, and the impact of the coronavirus.

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