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Maine businesses are expecting losses of just over 50 percent on average this year, while 16 percent think it is extremely unlikely they will open this summer, according to a survey from the Maine Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives released on Wednesday.
Though not representative of all Maine businesses or the labor force at large, the survey included companies from a variety of sectors. The results suggest that, despite broad access to aid programs, Maine companies have struggled to keep employees on payroll and will be facing significant losses as the year goes on.
The survey of 1,467 businesses was conducted in the first week of May, before Gov. Janet Mills announced a plan allowing restaurants and retail establishments in 12 counties to open sooner than those in areas harder hit by the coronavirus.
Among the businesses surveyed, those in the hospitality industry were expecting to see the greatest losses, with eight in 10 lodging or campground businesses expecting to see at least a 50 percent loss this year. Two-thirds of restaurants and bars were also expecting to see losses of at least 50 percent.
More than half of the businesses surveyed had accessed the Paycheck Protection Program, a federal loan program championed by Republican Sen. Susan Collins that provides forgivable loans to businesses if they keep employees on payroll. Another 15 percent had been approved for Economic Injury Disaster Loans, another federal program.
Despite access to these aid programs, the businesses surveyed had been hit particularly hard by layoffs. Nearly half of the more than 37,000 employees who worked at the businesses surveyed prior to the coronavirus outbreak had been laid off or furloughed. More than 108,000 Mainers have filed unemployment claims since mid-March as the coronavirus outbreak forced businesses across the state to shut their doors.
Among the businesses surveyed, the outbreak had also taken a toll on hiring. The businesses had declined to hire for 6,000 open positions, including a mix of seasonal and full-time jobs, that they had planned to fill under different circumstances.
A quarter of the employees who were still working had seen their hours reduced. However, less than 1 percent of the businesses surveyed had used the state’s WorkShare program, which allows employees to receive some unemployment benefits while continuing to work part time.
Most businesses were optimistic that they would be able to reopen in the coming months, with only 16 percent saying it was “extremely unlikely” that they would reopen this summer. Businesses in York and Hancock counties were more concerned about their reopening prospects than those in other counties, with 20 percent saying they were “extremely unlikely” to reopen this summer.
In response to open-ended questions about their concerns, businesses, especially those in the tourism industry, commonly cited the 14-day quarantine requirement for travelers entering the state as a major concern.
Businesses were largely supportive of requiring face coverings in public settings, while another common concern was difficulty in finding personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer and other related supplies.
Watch: Janet Mills shares changes for rural businesses