I am going to assume, like me, most of you were completely blindsided by the extreme level of impact COVID-19 is having on our daily lives and economy. If on the other hand you are clairvoyant and predicted we would all be sitting at home glued to red bubbles on maps and watching in awe the bizarre behavior over toilet paper, then call me. I have some stock picks I want to ask you about.
The Bad News
Earlier in the week, Patrick Jankowski, senior economist with the Greater Houston Partnership gave his prognosis for the Houston Economy in 2020. To be blunt, it was depressing. He said, we are in a recession, that for Houston it won’t be as bad as the 1980’s oil bust, but worse than 2008 financial crash, and that the Metro Houston area should expect to lose 150,000 jobs or more.
Likewise, reading the answers to the survey results from our survey was equally gut-wrenching, and I want to thank those who took a moment to complete it. Of the 100 responses we received, 93% indicated their business is being negatively impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. On a scale of 1-5, (5 being the most severe), 88% answered 3 or greater, over one-third of you answered “5” (most severe). Fortunately, 76% of respondents’ businesses are still operational, and 60% are considered to be “Essential Business.” 31% are still operating from their place of business, 58% are working remotely, and the remaining 11% have found creative ways or hybrid models to continue to stay open and still comply with the Stay-At-Home order.
Earlier in the week, Congress passed, and the president signed into law, the CARES Act. This releases $2.2 trillion, yes TRILLION of federal aid out U.S. small businesses and individuals. I encourage all businesses with less than 500 employees to contact your accountant and your local banker and inquire about eligibility to qualify for disaster assistance. The Paycheck Protection Program combined with the loan forgiveness provision is a very generous program and will allow you to continue to pay your employees while you are closed or suffering dramatically reduced revenue. Additionally, the Chamber is doing its part by creating the Due Relief Program. We are offering all our members the opportunity to switch from annual due to monthly dues at a discounted rate. It may not seem like a lot, but every bit helps to try and soften the blow.
You can find the Dues Relief application and more information about the different types of business assistance on our website under the Coronavirus resource page. As some of you may have experienced, the information changes daily and is being released from a multitude of sources. Therefore, we are increasing our communications to you with updates and new information.
Take a Deep Breath
If I can end on a positive note, this crisis has given us all the opportunity to slow down, take a step back and forced us to refocus on those aspects of our lives which really matter. Family game night is back in vogue. My children are grown and scattered about, but we are connecting with online games through the internet. I have had more interaction with my children in the last two weeks than I have had in the last 6 months. Family dinner is cool again. Being forced to do more home cooking, we are spending more time around the dinner table eating home cooking, telling jokes, sharing news stories and playing games. I see more people out exercising, walking, and riding bicycles with their children, than ever before, and by some perverse Hand-of-God, we have been blessed with some of the best Houston weather in recent memory at the same time we have all been granted a mandatory “Stay-cation.” Personally, for a long time, have wanted to get more serious about bread making. As of this writing, my sourdough starter is now five days old and ready to be put into its first loaves of bread. Treat this crisis as an opportunity. Learn something new. Create new perspectives and ideas about how we will be living our lives going forward. Because the real work is going to happen when we emerge out of this.
This crisis most certainly is bringing about sorrow and hardship, and we all carry an amount of empathy for those this hurts the most, but in the end, I believe we will all be a better people because of this. Stay safe, stay healthy, stay home, Stay Houston Strong.