A statewide survey showed that 35% of Wisconsin businesses think they will be forced to close their doors if economic conditions continue for more than three months during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Visions Northwest, one of nine regional economic development groups in Wisconsin, released the results recently.

“The survey was conducted by Visions Northwest and the eight other regional organizations in the state along with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. (WEDC) and UW-Oshkosh to assess COVID-19 business recovery ability and state and federal aid effort,” a press release stated. “It yielded nearly 2,550 responses from companies in 63 of the state’s 72 counties, covering the period April 1-10.”

The results from the survey showed 8,795 jobs were lost in the first days of Wisconsin’s safer-at-home order and led to “losses of $126 million in income, $95 million in inventory, $26.6 million in lost wages and productivity income and nearly $404 million in other impacts.”

According to the US Department of Labor a total of 16.8 million American workers have filed their initial claims for jobless benefits. In Wisconsin over 300,000 people have filed for unemployment since mid-March, when Gov. Tony Evers issued a public health emergency that closed non-essential businesses and shutting down a large section of the state’s economy.

Visions Northwest Chairman Kelly Klein believes the results of this survey reflect the concerns felt in northwest Wisconsin. "We have seen first-hand that businesses are struggling with a wide variety of issues due to the pandemic and are uncertain what the future holds.” According to Klein, "Our regional businesses are going to need funding not only to get through, but also to help restart as we move forward."

“The conditions reported here represent companies’ efforts to adapt to changing conditions,” said Jeffrey Sachse, director of UWO’s Center for Customized Research and Services (CCRS). “These impacts are certain to rise when we revisit these companies in a month, two months and six months’ time. The assistance that these companies require and the effects felt throughout the state’s economy are both unprecedented and continuous.”

WEDC Secretary and CEO Missy Hughes said the report “reinforces a lot of what I’m hearing when I talk with businesses and business leaders around the state."

“Small businesses are being hit especially hard by the pandemic. WEDC has taken initial steps by creating the Small Business 20/20 assistance and unlocking federal disaster loans. Our Wisconsin Ready effort will provide additional guidance and resources as we begin our state’s recovery efforts.”

Firms reported using a variety of approaches, including delaying payments and reducing inventories, as means of minimizing the impact of the crisis. “Responding firms suggested that their greatest immediate needs are access to greater liquidity in the form of low- interest loans, grants and access to customers. This closely mimics trends reflected in the national policy debate and recent surveys reported by the Federal Reserve Board and Small Business Administration,” Sachse said.