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The East Valley Chambers of Commerce Alliance (EVCCA) recently released its finding in the third survey of a series concerning the impact of COVID-19 on Arizona businesses.

The report includes responses from 19 industry sectors and nearly 75 percent of respondents represent businesses with fewer than 20 employees, according to a statement from the EVCCA. The organization notes that this most recent survey was conducted prior to Governor Ducey’s “Returning Stronger” plan to reinvigorate Arizona’s economy was announced.

In short, actions taken due to the COVID-19 pandemic have had a major impact on East Valley businesses, many of which have not been able to take advantage of the various support programs that have been offered in recent months.

According to responses, 35 percent of EVCCA members reported no change in their current business model. These were most likely businesses deemed essential or operating in a way that would not be impacted by statewide measures.

A total of 30 percent of responders said they had reduced their hours of operations and/or services provided, while another 21 percent reported temporary closures.

Furloughs or layoffs were high, with 47 percent of respondents reporting their use in recent months while 35 percent reported reduced employee hours. Less than 16 percent of respondents are currently hiring.

Relief

According to EVCCA, loans and debt relief continue to be a top priority for East Valley businesses, with 60 percent saying they had applied for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan. Of that number, only 9 percent were approved.

Concerning the Paycheck Protection Program, 74 percent said they applied for relief while 25 percent were approved. Nearly half (46 percent) of respondents said they had been waiting for two weeks or more for a response to a loan application.

Concerning additional forms of assistance, 37 percent of respondents have received rent reduction or deferment through the shutdown, though 11 percent reported their landlord or lienholder refused to negotiate.

Local

According to Fountain Hills Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Betsy LaVoie, a booming Arizona economy at the start of 2020 has evolved into “local businesses suffering a great loss since mid-March with the restrictions and closures due to the pandemic.”

As LaVoie notes, the closures came during a particularly impactful period for many local businesses.

“Public safety is obviously of the utmost importance and therefore restrictions are necessary, however, I feel Arizona businesses – specifically central and southern Arizona businesses – are unique with experiencing restrictions during the busiest tourist/visitor months of the year, which keeps businesses afloat during the slower summer months.”

LaVoie said the EVCCA business impact report shows the data for the East Valley region, which clearly shares the negative effect the closures have caused.

LaVoie said she feels the report is a solid gauge for how businesses have been impacted in Fountain Hills, noting that local respondents (12 percent) were about twice the average of other participating communities (6.6 percent).

Response

In the past couple of months, LaVoie said the Fountain Hills Chamber’s focus has been communicating with local businesses regarding the economic relief programs available.

“We have reached out to the business community and our members proactively since the start [of stay-at-home measures],” LaVoie said. “We personally called and emailed each and every Chamber business and less than 20 percent of those who applied for the PPP and EIDL loans through the SBA and their banking institutions received funds,” LaVoie said.

With the second wave of funds available, for the Payroll Protection Program, LaVoie said there has been a slight increase in local businesses receiving those funds.

“Our businesses are weathering the storm as best they can, however, we have seen some businesses close permanently,” LaVoie said. “On a positive note, some of the businesses have truly been able to adapt and offer virtual and online services and products and have been able to reach status quo in revenue for this time of year.”

On April 25, the Fountain Hills Chamber launched its “Survive Today, Thrive Tomorrow” campaign in the hopes of helping the local business economy recover quickly with a heavy marketing approach to advertise those businesses in need.

“Once restrictions are lifted further, we will celebrate by responsibly re-introducing our regular schedule of events including our quarterly breakfasts, Oktoberfest in late September and the unveiling of our newly remodeled visitors center and Chamber building and more,” LaVoie said.

For more information about the Fountain Hills Chamber of Commerce, visit fountainhillschamber.com.