The Regional Economic Partnership (REP) at the Port of Bellingham has released a report detailing the results of a general survey on the economic impacts of COVID-19 on Whatcom County businesses. The survey was developed by the REP in coordination with Whatcom Unified Command, the Bellingham Regional Chamber of Commerce and Western Washington University’s Small Business Development Center.
The economic impact survey received 756 unique responses from local businesses with 48% reporting closures due to COVID-19. Industry sectors reporting the highest number of closures were services, construction, retail, restaurants and bars, recreation, marine and manufacturing. 53% of survey respondents reported laying off workers due to COVID-19, and an additional 26% of businesses are considering layoffs in the near to medium term if the situation does not change.
“The need for relief and assistance is immense and it is critical to get direct cash transfers and grants to businesses in need as quickly as possible” said Port Director of Economic Development Don Goldberg. “This report indicates loans for many small businesses may not be helpful because they are already carrying high debt loads. More tools need to be made available to different business types and operations such as sole proprietors, agriculture, fishing, and other industries that rely heavily upon contract workers.”
450 Whatcom County businesses estimated cumulative losses at over $28 million with the highest average loss per business occurring in the recreation, public, tourism, and restaurant and bar sectors.
The economic impact report has been distributed to local, county, state, and federal representatives along with a consortium of service providers which support local businesses, Team Whatcom. Survey responses will give elected officials insight into the unique problems caused by COVID-19 on small businesses, inform strategies for economic recovery, and help identify how much state and federal recovery aid will be needed.
“Our Regional Economic Partnership team has been working tirelessly to address the economic hardships which our businesses and families are experiencing. This report is both important and timely, as it helps us to chart a path to recovery,” said Whatcom County Executive Satpal Sidhu. “The latest unemployment numbers out today show that more than one in five workers in our county have lost their job, which really underscores the importance of providing support to businesses so that they can restore these jobs as soon as possible. My office is working with REP to reach out to partners at the state and federal level to access much needed resources.”