Humboldt County businesses lose $2.7 million because of COVID-19

County still collecting information from local businesses

Six Rivers Optical in Eureka is one of many businesses that sits closed on Thursday morning. The total cost of preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus to 227 businesses in Humboldt County has been $2,725,795, according to an economic damage assessment done by the county. (Sonia Waraich — The Times-Standard)
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The COVID-19 outbreak has been devastating for local businesses.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the spread of the novel coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 disease, has caused Humboldt County businesses to lose $2,725,796 in revenue, led to the loss of 704 jobs and has forced eight businesses to close, according to an economic damage assessment conducted by the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Services.

The assessment was based on a survey of 227 self-reporting businesses, which Humboldt County’s Economic Development Director Scott Adair wrote in an email is a small sample size of the number of total businesses in the county. That means the real economic impact could be worse.

The economic impact survey, which is available at bit.ly/2UBymfb, is open continuously and the county is recommending businesses fill it out on a bi-weekly basis, Cara Owings, executive director of the Humboldt County Workforce Development Board, wrote in an email.

The survey results will be shared on Fridays, Owings said and shared some results that will be released this Friday.

Based on 335 total responses, nine businesses have had to permanently close, and the most impacted businesses were entertainment, tattoo shops, child care and personal care, such as massage and beauty businesses.

“Most of the business that permanently closed were from Arcata, Eureka, Fortuna and Ferndale,” Owings wrote. “One business was reported closed from Willow Creek.”

Of those 335 businesses, 3.75% reported permanent closures, 73% reported temporary closures and 50% reported layoffs, Owings wrote.

Some businesses, like Six Rivers Optical and Trinidad Kayak, are just closed temporarily, but reported experiencing losses ranging from 30% to 55%.

Jason Self, owner of Trinidad Kayak, wrote in a Facebook post that he fears that the closure may become permanent if the COVID-19 crisis persists.

“In the short term, I had just enough saved to get through April, but not after,” Self wrote. “Our guides, fortunately, have other work at home for the time being.”

Self wrote he sold a few couple extra kayaks he had for extra cash, but he’s relying on the stimulus package to provide him with unemployment benefits he otherwise wouldn’t qualify for. He’s avoiding taking out small business loans because he wants “to come out of this on the other side without massive debt that will make recovery in the long term that much harder,” he wrote.

“But again, depending on how long this goes, it’s still on the table,” Self wrote.

March through May is a huge revenue-generating time for Self’s business because of the whale-watching tours that Self said he depends on to get through the offseason. This year, revenues are 30% below where they usually are, he wrote.

“We’ve had massive refunds the last two weeks without any new bookings, which is a really bad combo,” he wrote.

Self wrote that he’s begun offering gift cards that are 20% off for a future date, but has only had one buyer so far.

“If I lose my business, so be it,” Self wrote.

Martin Dodd, owner of Six Rivers Optical, said he’s not too worried that his business will close, but COVID-19 is having a definite financial impact. Sales were down 30% in February and 55% in March, he said.

When he made the decision to close, he and five other employees were laid off and “now there’s nothing coming in,” Dodd said.

The store was doing curbside pickups, but Dodd said he’s stopped that now, too. Instead he’s receiving shipments, making glasses and mailing them to customers while the shop is closed, he said.

At this point, Dodd said he’s hoping his employees receive substantial unemployment checks from the government and he’s working on finding out if he would be eligible for a small business loan until the store is able to reopen. When that will be, he said he doesn’t know.

“The shelter in place order is in effect until April 9, but that’s got to be re-evaluated,” Dodd said. “So it’s all unsure right now and it’s scary. … There will be businesses that close, but we’re not one of them I think.”

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