The coronavirus is forcing big changes in how El Pasoans work and run their businesses as the pandemic continues to pummel the economy.

Two surveys of El Paso businesses conducted last week show that the COVID-19 pandemic is “already a major business crisis” in the borderland, forcing workers and business owners to make painful choices.

“Businesses most affected are small and medium enterprises. It appears (based on early estimates) that the average losses are about $30,000 per business in the first week,” according to an informal survey the El Paso Chamber sent its members last week.

More than 100 responded.

In what has become the biggest test many businesses in El Paso have ever faced, more than 26% of those who responded to a survey published by the El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce said they are seeking loans, and 41% are holding back on new investments.

More than 37% have cut employee hours, and 28% have employees that have to work from home.

The Hispanic chamber sent the informal survey to 1,300 members last week. More than 350 businesses responded.

Here are the initial results of the surveys that were published on Thursday and Friday.

Hispanic Chamber of Commerce survey

Q: How has COVID-19 affected your business?

I have had to cancel all business related travel and events  51%

I have had to change and/or cut my business hours  39%

My employees cannot come into the office  19%

My supply chain has been affected  18%

I have had to shut my business down  5%

Q: What measures are you taking to reduce the risk of exposure for clients and employees?

Enhanced cleaning protocols in the office  60%

Using technology to connect with clients virtually  47%

Creating sanitizing stations for employees and clients  41%

Employees are working from home  34%

Q: What affect has the COVID-19 outbreak had on your employees?

Employees have had to cut the number of hours they work  41%

Employees have had to adjust schedules due to school breaks  33%

Employees having to work from home  28%

Employees having to take paid time off to care for children and/or family members  9%

Q: What steps are you taking to lessen the economic impact that COVID-19 will have on your business?

Cancelling company travel  43%

Holding back on additional investments  41%

Cutting employees hours  38%

Seeking loan or line of credit  27%

Cutting down on inventory  21%

Instituting a hiring freeze  20%

Looking for different suppliers  10%


El Paso Chamber survey

Q: How would you rate the effect COVID-19 is having on your business (1-low / 10-high)?

Seventy-four percent of respondents say that COVID-19 is having a highly negative effect (8-10 response) on their business. Layoffs and closures due to lost revenue are the biggest reasons. Very few businesses noted that they are not yet feeling the effects. 

Q: Please tell us when COVID-19 began to affect your business.

The most common response centered on the March 12th presidential announcement that travel to Europe was banned, as well as the March 13th announcement of the first COVID-19 case in El Paso.

Q: Estimate the decrease in revenue that your business has experienced due to COVID-19.

Although the responses are relatively evenly split among all response levels, 27% estimate a loss of revenue of over 80%.  

Q: How do you anticipate this will affect you financially compared to 2019?

Thirty-seven percent of respondents expect a greater than 80% decrease in their 2020 revenue vs. 2019. 

Q: As concerns grow over the spread of COVID-19, what, if anything is your company doing to address these issues?

Most respondents are rethinking meetings, providing more regular updates and cleaning based on CDC guidelines. 

Q: What suggestions do you have for relief you’d like to see most urgently?

1) Most need help paying staff

2) Low or no cost credit

3) Deferral on taxes (all of them)

4) Simple guidance on available help

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