Central Oregon companies could potentially experience devastating business losses as more of them lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
With a lion’s share of employees working in limited-service restaurants, the impact could be severe on the whole economy, said Damon Runberg, Oregon Employment Department regional economist. Roughly 8,000 jobs are related to restaurants that account for a $42.5 million payroll for a full quarter, Runberg said.
“We will see direct and significant impacts to our hospitality industry; hotels, restaurants and recreation, as well as, brick and mortar retail,” Runberg said. “How severe and how damaging those impacts are depends on how long this continues. Other industries will also be impacted, but those impacts may take longer to be felt.”
On Monday, Gov. Kate Brown ordered all restaurants and bars closed to sit-down diners. Restaurants can operate takeout and delivery only. She also banned gatherings of 25 people or more.
The impacts could be seen for months to come in the economy, Runberg said.
“As consumer spending slows dramatically we will see a demand shock, folks not buying as many goods,” Runberg said. “This will eventually be felt by service and good producers. Once again, those impacts will be felt a bit further down the timeline compared with the hospitality businesses.
At Found Natural Goods in Bend, the pandemic’s impact is already being felt, said owner Jacqueline Smith. On Monday, her employees were informed that their hours were cut for the next couple of weeks to a month, depending on sales.
Typically at this time year of hundreds of customers come through her doors. She’s expecting maybe one hardy customer a day.
“We’re pivoting from brick and mortar to online sales,” Smith said. “That’s ironic because we started out online five years ago. Now it’s back to a one-woman show.”
A long-term business shutdown could potentially affect the region’s economy, said Carolyn Eagan, city of Bend Economic Development director.
“The truth is, (the virus) has the potential to be devastating for business owners and their employees,” Eagan said. “Disruption to the restaurant industry is an immediate shock to families. Some of these families have less resources, and we know that the restaurant industry on a whole has fewer employers who offer paid sick leave compared to other employers.”
Eagan said what will help the economy overall and workers individually is if Gov. Kate Brown allows workers to apply for assistance.
“We’re working internally to find out when that comes,” Eagan said. “This has the potential to be devastating without a complementary response from the state and local government to help families and businesses.”
At Smith’s store, she is cleaning door knobs and other items that are commonly touched.
“We need to listen and know that we’re not exempt,” Smith said.
“I’m here and I’ll keep open unless government requirements force me to close. This will be a temporary hardship. It will pass.
“It is hard on our employees. We’re trying to figure out what to do.”