CLOSE

CEO Jamie Church worries layoffs may be heavier than indicated

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

FARMINGTON — The results are in from the Farmington Chamber of Commerce's second survey of local business owners about how the COVID-19 shutdown has impacted them, and they are predictably grim.

The survey, which was conducted April 15th through 28th, contained 13 questions and drew 191 responses — an increase over the 164 responses that were received when the first survey was conducted in March.

The most noteworthy information revealed in the survey stems from its second question — one that asks merchants how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting their business. A total of 23% of respondents indicated they had closed or would be closing their doors, a figure that represented a slight decline from the 24% of merchants who responded that way in the first survey.

But that smidgen of good news was more than offset by other respondents to the question, as 23% of merchants said their business was down 70% to 90%. That compared unfavorably to the 13% of merchants who responded that way in March.

Additionally, 16% of respondents said their business had fallen 50% to 70%, compared to 13% in March. That means a total of 62% of respondents responded affirmatively to one of the three most negative categories in the second survey, compared to 50% in the first survey.

Jamie Church, president and CEO of the Farmington Chamber of Commerce, fears that isn't the worst of the news. She said the 191 responses the chamber received certainly don't represent an across-the-board picture of what is happening to the local business community, and she believes the situation could be more dire than the survey results indicate.

"I've heard about lots of layoffs anecdotally," she said. "I think there's more layoffs than the survey indicated, or at least people who have been furloughed or had their hours cut."

Church said locally owned businesses that have been deemed nonessential and remain closed during the lockdown are bearing most of the burden.

"The longer this goes on with not getting the smaller stores open, the more of this we will see," she said.

Church said she had hoped more merchants would respond to the survey, but she said she receives at least one survey a day in her email from some other organization that is trying to measure the impact of the shutdown. She said she believes people are beginning to suffer from "survey burnout" and information fatigue.

"I would have liked for that figure to be closer to 300 (responses)," she said. "That would have represented two-thirds of our membership."

Results from the rest of the survey were more mixed. When asked if they had laid off any employees, 60% of merchants responded affirmatively in the new survey, an improvement from the 66% who said yes in the first survey.

Read more: Impacts of coronavirus are not yet clear as county prepares fiscal year 2021 budget

But there was a sharp increase among those who reported having laid off 75% to 100% of their workers. That figure was 18% for the new survey, compared to only 10% for the first survey.

Still, the news wasn't all bad. Nearly three-fourths of respondents — 73% — indicated they believe they will be able to reopen when all the restrictions are lifted, while 16% said they could not answer at this time and 10% did not respond. Only 1% of respondents said they did not anticipate being able to reopen.

Keep reading: Here are the latest coronavirus updates from San Juan County, Four Corners region

When asked if they anticipated being able to rehire a majority of their employees when restrictions are lifted, 45% of respondents indicated they had not laid off any employees, while 19% said they could not answer at this time. Another 15% said they expected to rehire those employees immediately, while 6% chose the 30-day timetable and 9% chose the 60-day timetable. No one chose the "never" timetable, but 7% did not respond.

Church was cheered by survey responses that showed a heavy majority of respondents — 71% — felt like information was being communicated to them promptly and was easy to access. The survey also indicated respondents are relying on a variety of sources to access that information. The most heavily relied upon source for COVID-19 information was the state of New Mexico website, but 37% of merchants said they were getting information from their local bank and 36% said they were getting it from the chamber website or the New Mexico Department of Health.

Church said she believes there is a growing sense of worry among local merchants, especially after San Juan County was exempted from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's decision last week to ease some restrictions on business operations in the state. The county continues to have one of the higher infection rates in the state.

The latest: Governor extends lockdown of Gallup with modified emergency order

"Everybody's just ready to get back to work," she said. "We know that. There's been a lot of frustration that San Juan County has not been allowed to get back up."

Church said the situation for many local merchants is becoming critical, especially as they see many businesses in neighboring Colorado reopening and drawing customers who might have chosen to spend their money here if they had the chance.

"I'm ready to be out there advocating for our businesses," Church said.

The survey results can be found at gofarmington.com.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610.

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: https://www.daily-times.com/story/news/local/2020/05/07/chamber-ceo-fears-layoffs-could-higher-than-survey-indicates-coronavirus/3091346001/