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Survey finds Hawaii businesses reeling from lost revenue, cutting jobs, and expecting a long road to recovery

A new survey by the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce Foundation found businesses are not only continuing to suffer from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but do not expect to recover for at least another year.

The Pulse of Business Survey found that two out of three local businesses are facing severe downturns in revenues, which in turn resulted in job cuts.

The survey of more than 300 Chamber of Commerce Hawaii members also found:

>> Revenues fell an average of 45% from 2019 to 2020, with no significant differences between Oahu and neighbor isles.

>> Almost half (45%) reduced their workforce. The percentage would have been higher (63%) if businesses had not received federal Paycheck Protection Program funds.

>> Businesses that had to cut jobs laid off a median of one in three workers in 2020. On neighbor isles, cuts were even greater, with five in nine employees laid off due to the pandemic.

>> Many local businesses attributed a drastic drop in revenue to waning tourism, even if they were not directly involved in the visitor industry. A drop in visitor arrivals was the single most important factor impacting employee cutbacks.

>> Three in five said they can not afford any increase in unemployment insurance this year. Almost all (94%) favor unemployment tax relief. A majority (76%) said an increase of UI taxes from an average of about $600 to $2,600 per full-time employee could trigger more job reductions.

The chamber said many members welcome financial relief for small businesses not only in the form of grants, and rent and lease forgiveness, but relief from additional taxes and any increased costs of doing business. In addition, they want help enforcing COVID-19 protocols.

Nine in 10 businesses surveyed expect to still be in business in the next 6 to 12 months.

Many, however, believe the road to recovery will take more than a year — 16 months on average. Some believe recovery will take until at least April 2022.

The survey was conducted in partnership with Omnitrak with the support of the Central Pacific Bank Foundation,

“This survey provides valuable information and highlights what we have known for months. Businesses are facing a long road to recovery,” said Chamber of Commerce Hawaii CEO Sherry Menor-McNamara in a news release. “This is not the time to place added burdens on our business community. Instead, we need to work together to find new solutions to keep our local businesses alive until we see a full economic recovery from the effects of this pandemic.”

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