On Friday afternoon, the Ohio Chamber provided the House Economic Recovery Task Force with an assessment of how COVID-19 has impacted business operations in Ohio. The remarks were joint remarks given by the Ohio Chamber on behalf of six major statewide business organizations: NFIB, Ohio Business Roundtable, Ohio Chamber of Commerce, Ohio Council of Retail Merchants, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, and Ohio Manufacturers’ Association. Friday’s meeting was the fifth this week for the task force, which was set up to “lay the foundation for economic recovery” from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ohio Chamber’s remarks highlighted the major challenge that all six organizations have been hearing – and continue to hear – from members, which is that they are struggling to come up with the money needed to keep paying their employees and their other fixed expenses due to forced closures or a significant drop in demand or sales.
We also gave a preliminary overview of some of the new challenges that may await businesses when the stay at home order is lifted and they are allowed to resume operations, on May 1 or soon thereafter. These include:
Cash flow problems will remain a challenge for some employers even after they’re back in business, especially if economic activity resumes slowly at first, as is anticipated.
Consumers who feel unsafe about their health won’t patronize restaurants, go places to shop, etc., and new consumer purchasing habits have been established during the crisis. Economic activity will be impacted until this reluctance subsides and normal buying patterns resume.
Businesses face a possible onslaught of lawsuits stemming from COVID-19 where they are the targets.
Anything that distracts resources from restarting businesses, including regulatory compliance and other governmental mandates, will be obstacles to a quick recovery.
Supply Chain Disruption
The pandemic has caused major disruptions to global supply chains that will take time to resolve.
New and different workforce challenges are likely to emerge during recovery, as skillsets and training needs may temporarily shift.
Workers will continue to be concerned about the health risks of going back to work, and employers will need time to implement health- and hygiene-related protocols to protect them.
These seven challenges, and others sure to emerge alongside them, could be at least somewhat mitigated by legislative action, and so there will soon be an important role for the legislature to play. However, while the Ohio Chamber and the other business organizations on whose behalf we testified specialize in advocating for the business community at the Statehouse, we did not offer specific recommendations for legislative action today. We believe it would have been premature because, as we noted in our testimony, there is no playbook and no precedent for reopening an economy that has been on pause for several weeks.
Once our members are able to secure their financial survival, we told the task force to expect recommendations from our organizations, including what specific types of assistance, support, or relief businesses may require. We appreciate that lawmakers – those on the task force and others – are eager to help ensure a quick and successful economic recovery.