Small businesses nationally have taken a toll due to the COVID-19 pandemic and it’s no different for small businesses in the four states area. From lack of service to trying to keep their business afloat, local owners have seen all sides of the effect on their businesses.
Since the beginning of the pandemic back in March, small businesses have been hit hard but have also seen improvements as the months have gone by. According to the U.S. Chamber of commerce June poll, “small businesses’ level of concern about the impact of COVID-19 has subsided slightly.” Though, that doesn’t mean many small businesses don’t have great lengths to come back from, as some local owners spoke out.
Nancy Hutson, co-owner of Route 66 Movie Theatre in Webb city and Cycle Connection in Joplin, said it has been “incredibly challenging” and that they have had to think outside of the norm. Though Hutson’s main goal was to keep their employees and the community in mind, as Hutson said she has constantly wondered, “how do we take care of our customers?”
For Teresa Smith, executive director at the Carthage Humane Society, she said their biggest concern has been the lack of donations the Humane Society has received during the pandemic. Smith said they are in great need of cat litter, cat and dog food, and other items for the animals. Along with that, the Humane Society had to stop fundraising as an effect of the pandemic, though she said the board will now allow fundraising events to be held in spite of it. Smith said the Carthage Humane Society will work to overcome the ways it’s been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic by “very actively holding events.”
On a national scale, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) found that the reasons for small businesses closing was due to reductions in demand and employee health concerns, though with disruptions in the supply chain as less of a factor. Many local businesses did not have to face closures, while others did, though all had battles to fight against in order to keep their business running.
According to a PNAS research article, it’s estimated that 35.1 million jobs will be lost if the pandemic lasts six months; it is also suggested “that the scale of job dislocation could be larger than anything America has experienced since the Great Depression and larger than the impact of the 1918 influenza epidemic.” For Smith, the Carthage Humane Society has faced issues with finding more employees.
Smith said people are not looking for work right now, saying she thinks it’s been due to unemployment. She explained that at the Humane Society they have a total of 10 to 11 employees—12 maximum—though often will only have three working at a time. She said it also seems that people just don’t want to work. Because of this and more, they apply for grants weekly in order to gain assistance.
Maria Neece, co-owner of Neece Concrete Construction, has seen similar issues at their business. Neece said they have been looking for more help during the pandemic, but have not been able to get anyone hired. Though, she said they haven’t had to shut down, even with a total of 20 employees in their business. Among hiring issues, Neece Concrete Construction has also faced shipping problems and delays in receiving items they need. Not only this as well, but the business usually has several jobs lined up by this point but don’t currently.
Not everything local small businesses are facing currently is bad, as many are looking at partially reopening or already have. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce June poll, “Most small businesses report at least partial reopening.” The numbers show in the poll that for the Midwest specifically, 1 percent are permanently closed, 19 percent are temporarily closed, 38 percent are partially open, 39 percent fully open, and two percent don’t know.
Hutson said that Cycle Connection has had pretty steady business over the pandemic, as she says it’s because the community has searched for ways for recreation, though it isn’t until now that the Route 66 Movie Theater is expected to gain more service. Over the pandemic, the theater was not able to show any new movies, though soon they will. She said this “greatly affected the movie business.”
Going forward, these businesses and more are having to find new ways to get or keep business going and for Neece she said at Neece Concrete Construction they are going to keep doing what they’ve been doing and work to get more projects lined up.
Many businesses not only nationally but locally as well, though, are opening with preventative measures, like face coverings, frequently disinfecting surfaces, monitoring symptoms, and social distancing. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce June poll reported “More than eight in ten small businesses report that they are making, or planning to make, adaptations in response to the coronavirus.”