THE COVID-19 public health crisis has triggered a significant economic downturn in a matter of weeks. In the interest of public health, state and local governments nationwide have forced "nonessential" businesses to shut their doors, and as businesses in the retail trade, personal services, and food and accommodation sectors temporarily close, unemployment has skyrocketed.
In the first six weeks of mandated social distancing measures, more than 30,500,000 people filed first-time unemployment claims. Forecasts of second quarter 2020 unemployment rates now are at double-digit levels and reach as high as 32%.
While economists and policymakers largely believe the short-term impacts will be dire, some note that the economic recovery has the potential to be robust. The national economy was strong immediately preceding the crisis, including historically low unemployment rates. Once social distancing restrictions are eased, businesses will begin to reopen and employees who have been furloughed or laid off can return to their jobs. For this recovery to be efficient, however, businesses that have been shuttered temporarily must survive and be ready to reopen once the immediate health threat has passed.
Economic Development Organizations (EDOs) are stepping into a new role in the COVID-19 crisis to help ensure that businesses have the capacity to reopen and rehire their employees. "EDOS are the economic first responders" is how Steve Hyde, president and CEO of New York's Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC), describes it.
EDOs now are on the frontlines, helping companies navigate the economic fallout of the public-health crisis. Mandatory shutdowns are requiring businesses in sectors such as tourism, hospitality, retail, and personal services to hibernate, and companies that have been deemed to be providing essential services still are operating but are facing challenges, including supply chain dismptions and the implementation of new health and safety regulations.
Governments at all levels are rolling out assistance programs designed to help businesses survive the crisis and companies of all types are turning to EDOs to help them navigate these newly established programs. EDOs are working to ensure the success of their client companies and the restoration of local economies.
In the earliest stages of the economic fallout. EDOs have taken on three new duties: providing up-to-date information: offering pivot assistance to companies...