Hawaii Chamber of Commerce Releases Pulse of Business Survey Results

by Jim Bea Sampaga

Two in three Hawaii businesses are experiencing severe declines in revenues, according to a recent survey by Hawaii Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Omnitrak.

With the support of Central Pacific Bank Foundation, the “Pulse of Business” report surveyed more than 300 Chamber of Commerce members and it revealed that business average revenues fell to 45% from 2019 to 2020.

Sherry Menor-McNamara, Chamber of Commerce Hawaii CEO, said that the survey presents valuable information that shows Hawaii’s “long road to recovery.”

“This is not the time to place added burdens on our business community,” said Menor-McNamara.

“Instead, we need to work together to find new solutions to keep our local businesses alive until we see a full economic recovery from the effects of this pandemic.” 

Almost half of Hawaii businesses laid off workers due to the reduced revenues. One out of three workers were laid off in 2020. Neighboring islands had even higher numbers with five in nine employees laid off because of the lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report also notes that “this number would have been higher if businesses had not received federal Paycheck Protection Program funds.

As the unemployment rate continues to rise, three in five Hawaii businesses shared they can’t afford to pay any additional unemployed insurance in 2021. 94% of respondents say they favor the unemployment tax relief.

The pandemic greatly affected Hawaii’s tourism industry, impacting not only the local economy but also the number of employed residents on the islands.

Among the businesses surveyed, only 12% were in the tourism industry but respondents highlighted that “the drop in visitor arrivals as by far the single most important factor impacting employee cutbacks.”

When asked about their future, respondents believe that their businesses and local economy have recovered by April 2022.

Moreover, nine out of 10 businesses surveyed “expect to still be in business in the next six or 12 months, and event out to the next two years.”

The Chamber recommends that the government increases its efficiency and provide more financial relief to small businesses. The respondents also added that promoting buying local is “an essential part of Hawaii’s recovery.”

So, what can the government do to help?

The report outlines that assistance programs such as grants, and rent and lease forgiveness are a great help to businesses. 79% of businesses also vote for the State Legislature’s plan to align the tax treatment of PPP funds with the IRS.

But most importantly, strictly enforcing COVID-19 protocols and safety guidelines is a must.

The survey notes that businesses would like “to see restriction lessened on businesses and highlighted the need to develop a strong testing program and a reformed quarantine program.”

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