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Chamber Survey Gives Glimpse Into Impact On Maine Businesses

Posted May 14, 2020

The Maine Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (MACCE) surveyed businesses across the state on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Mills Administration’s 4-stage plan to gradually reopen Maine’s economy. A total of 1,467 businesses responded to the “Re-starting Maine’s Economy” survey, conducted online from May 1 to May 6, 2020. Five percent (72) of the statewide responses were from businesses and organizations that are either in or do business in Knox County.

MACCE surveyed businesses to collect constructive feedback and suggestions on reopening Maine, as well as to provide helpful information on Maine’s economic recovery. Findings also will be used as a benchmark to measure economic recovery in the months ahead.

It is important to note that the survey was conducted prior to Governor Mills’ Friday, May 8 Rural Reopening Plan announcement that allows certain businesses in 12 Maine counties to reopen with safety precautions beginning May 11 and May 18, ahead of the timeline in the Governor’s original plan. The Rural Reopening Plan has addressed some business concerns identified in the survey.

Responses came from businesses in every county and region of Maine, with heaviest responses from Cumberland, Hancock, Oxford, Penobscot, and York counties. Sectors include hospitality, retail, tourism, healthcare, real estate, marine, construction, finance, nonprofits, and more.

Key findings include:

  • Respondents expect significant economic losses this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on business operations under the original reopening plan.
  • Statewide, 8 out of 10 Lodging & Campground respondents anticipate economic losses over 50% in 2020; 6 out of 10 Lodging & Campground respondents anticipate losses over 70%.In Knox County, 83% of lodging respondents estimated economic losses of 75% or more for 2020.
  • Statewide, 2 out of 3 Restaurants/Bars/Cafes and Coffeehouse respondents anticipate economic losses over 50% in 2020; Over 85% of Restaurants/Bars/Cafes and Coffeehouses who responded anticipate losses of over 40% in 2020.  Knox County restaurants responding to the survey estimated an average economic loss of 41% for 2020.
  • Statewide, half of retailers anticipate economic losses of 50% or more in 2020, while 3 out of 4 Retailers expect losses of 30% or more.  In Knox County, retailers who responded to the survey collectively estimated 2020 economic losses at 58%.
  • Statewide, the average anticipated loss of all respondents in the survey came in at just over 50% but loss projections were evenly distributed through each of the ten options on the survey with no specific amount getting higher than 13.5% percent of the total.Similarly, Knox County respondents collectively estimated economic losses in 2020 at 50%, and had a similarly-even distribution of estimated losses.
  • Statewide, the survey represents businesses who have 44,538 employees at full staffing, with Knox County businesses representing 6% of that total. Taking seasonal hiring into account as well as open positions and non-respondents to the particular question, respondents identified having 37,179 employees before Covid-19 began and they indicated that approximately half (48.2%) have been laid-off or furloughed statewide. Of remaining employees, 26% are working reduced hours. Additionally, nearly 6,000 new hires were not made because of COVID-19 representing both seasonal and year-round positions. Knox County respondents reported 3,177 pre-Covid-19 employees, 270 layoffs, 352 employees with reduced hours, and 184 positions unfilled due to the pandemic.
  • When asked about the likelihood of opening this summer, only 16% statewide responded extremely unlikely they would be able to including over 20% of the respondents in York and Hancock counties.  Of Knox County respondents, 17% said it was extremely unlikely that they would open.
  • Statewide, over 80% of businesses responded they will likely be open on this date in 2021, with only 8% saying it was extremely unlikely.  For Knox County respondents, 70% expressed a greater than even chance of being open in 2021, while 10% said it was extremely unlikely they would open next year.
  • Statewide, more than half (53%) of respondents have accessed Paycheck Protection Programs rescue loans, and 15% have been approved for Economic Injury Disaster Loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration. Less than 1% have utilized the Workshare program.  In Knox County, 55% have accessed the PPP, 11% have been approved for EIDL, and 1% have utilized Workshare.

Several themes emerged from responses. They include:

The 14-day quarantine requirement poses difficulties, specifically to lodging and tourism-related businesses that fear losing the bulk of their summer business.

Respondents encourage regional reopening in areas less affected by COVID-19, as opposed to a one-size fits-all plan.

Businesses want more transparency/clarity in reasoning behind which kinds of businesses can reopen when.

Businesses want to be included as part of the solution and in decisions regarding reopening plans, and believe they can be trusted to implement safeguards and precautions to reopen safely and responsibly. They take their role in helping to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 very seriously.

Regarding the Governor’s reopening plan, responses cover the spectrum on whether the approach was too fast, too slow or just right. Many respondents also acknowledge the challenges the Mills Administration is facing due to such an all-consuming pandemic. Many urge caution in reopening too quickly so Maine does not have a resurgence requiring another shut down.

Maine businesses are extremely supportive of implementing strict safety guidelines to protect employees and customers, and are looking for more detailed guidelines and clarification on how to safely reopen.

A majority of respondents feel face coverings should be required.

Respondents expressed a clear need for PPE and proper sanitizing equipment such as masks, sanitizing wipes, hand sanitizer, etc. Many are having a difficult time finding these items.


Additional Key Statistics:

- Nearly a quarter of the respondents identified as Cumberland County and almost 20% were from York County, the two hardest hit (and non-opening) counties.

- Percentage of business anticipated losses of over 50% in 2020 by industry (statewide):

(317) Lodging/Campgrounds 82.6%
(227) Restaurants/Café/Coffee/Caterer 64.3%
(191) Retailers Including Grocery 51.3%
(114) Non-Profits; Charitable, Comm. Org, Lib. 22.8%

(91) Finance & Insurance 18.7%


- Percentage of business anticipated losses of over 50% in 2020 by industry (Knox County):

(7) Arts/Theater 55%

(6) Lodging/Campgrounds 72%

(4) Nature/Charter Tourism 90%

(4) Retail 58%


- Extremely Unlikely to Open this Summer (meaning they selected either 1 or 2 on a 1-10 scale)  Below is the percentage of respondents statewide by industry who said they’d be Extremely Unlikely to open this summer:

- Events/Event Planning & Weddings: 62.9% (22 of 35 industry responses)
- Arts, Theater, A/V technology and communications: 38.4% (25 of 65)
- Nature & charter based tourism, including excursions: 34.6% (18 of 52)
- Lodging & Campgrounds: 30.0% (95 of 317)

From Knox County respondents, 75% (3 of 4) Nature/Charter Tourism businesses, and 30% of nonprofits (3 of 10) responded that they are extremely unlikely to open this summer.Overall, 17% of Knox County businesses reported being extremely unlikely to open in 2020.


- Extremely Unlikely to Open this Summer (meaning they selected either 1 or 2 on a 1-10).  Below is the highest number respondents by industry who said they’d be Extremely Unlikely to open this summer along with the highest respondent counties:
- Lodging & Campgrounds: 95 responses (York 37, Hancock 24)
- Restaurants: 25 Responses (York 8, Hancock 7)
- Arts, Theater, A/V technology and communications: 25 Responses (Cumberland 7, Penobscot 6, Hancock 5)

Those stating they are Extremely Likely to be open this summer (giving a ranking of 9 or 10) outweighed those Extremely Unlikely to be open this summer (giving a ranking of 1 or 2) almost 2.5-to-1. (611 vs. 235).  In Knox County, 49% of businesses reported being extremely likely to open in 2020, versus 17% saying it is extremely unlikely they would open in 2020.


- Extremely Unlikely to be Open on this Date in 2021.  Of the 120 respondents statewide who said it was Extremely Unlikely they would be open on this date in 2021 (meaning they answered 1 or 2 on a 10 point scale), the highest number of respondents by industry was as follows with the highest result counties:
- Lodging & Campgrounds: 55 responses (York 23, Hancock 11, Cumberland 5, Piscataquis 5)
- Restaurants: 23 Responses (York 7, Hancock 4, Piscataquis 4)
- Retail: 17 Responses: (York 8, Penobscot 3, Hancock 3)

- Those stating they are Extremely Likely to be open on this date in 2021 (giving a ranking of 9 or 10) outweighed those Extremely Unlikely to be open on this date in 2021 (giving a ranking of 1 or 2) almost 6-to-1. (693 vs. 120).  In Knox County, 50% of respondents said it is extremely likely that they will open in 2021, while 10% replied that it is extremely unlikely they will be open in 2021.