Bay Area Council Survey Finds Growing Pressure to Reopen Economy
Strong support for shelter-in-place restrictions, but economic toll mounting as growing number of business see more layoffs coming
Pressure is building to reopen the Bay Area economy, according to a Bay Area Council survey of some of the region’s largest businesses and employers. The survey found that 60 percent of businesses have already laid off workers or will be forced to lay off workers under shelter-in-place (SIP) orders that have shut down large swaths of the economy in a bid to combat the spread of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
And while businesses say they are largely in agreement with actions taken to date in response to COVID-19, the survey found that 71 percent think shelter-in-place orders should be lifted sometime in the next 30 days, including 26 percent who want to see an end to SIP orders in the next two weeks. The results come as officials in six Bay Area counties announced this week they are extending current SIP orders through the end of May from an initial deadline of May 3.
Already, 17 percent of businesses said they have laid off workers since the shelter-in-place orders took effect. Another 5 percent said they could hold out another two weeks before handing out pink slips, while almost 12 percent expect to start laying off workers in a month and 25 percent said two months is the maximum they can go before reducing their workforces. About 40 percent of businesses said they could go up to a year before layoffs are required.
“We strongly support the aggressive actions taken by Governor Newsom and county health officials to establish rigorous rules and shelter-in-place requirements designed to slow the spread of Covid-19. Many lives have been saved. But, employers are reaching a tipping point in their ability to withstand the severe economic effects of the shutdown,” said Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council. “Public health and defeating COVID-19 must be a top priority, but we also need a clear plan for how we can begin responsibly to reopen the economy in phases over the coming weeks and months. Already we are seeing encouraging signs that the shelter-in-place restrictions are starting to work. As we continue to make progress in battling COVID-19 we must make similar progress in restarting our economy and getting people back to work.”
More than 72 percent of businesses surveyed described the economic toll from the COVID-19 shutdown as severe (46%) or very severe (26%), with declines in business revenue for the year projected to reach an average of about 25% and some businesses reporting possible revenue declines of higher than 50%.
Despite the economic pain, businesses largely supported the early actions taken by public health and other public officials in response to COVID-19. The survey found that almost 80 percent of businesses characterized the Bay Area’s response as “just right,” with almost 14% saying the response had gone overboard.
The survey was completed by 178 Bay Area Council member companies representing a wide array of businesses and industries.