COVID shuts some business doors, others struggle to stay open

Brevard County has experienced the brunt of business closings.

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the economy the world over. Brevard County also has experienced the brunt of business closings.

But what does the future hold?

“It’s all small businesses, restaurants, just about any business you can think of has been affected,” said Curt Smith, the Brevard County Commissioner for District 4 that includes Viera. “Those selling things like hot tubs, cars and jet skis and boats are not negatively impacted. People are flocking to those items.

"The small mom-and-pop places like auto body shops and restaurants and smaller operations, their businesses have been affected greatly, putting people out of work and limiting operating staff.”

Among Viera businesses that closed in recent months are Empower Fitness, Justice for Girls, and Kinna Blow

Dry Bar.

But Brevard is not as severely affected as the nation.

“The labor market caps out in March and April,” said Mike Slotkin, a professor of economics at Florida Institute of Technology. “Brevard County lost about 22,000 jobs, and as it reopens it has drawbacks from the pandemic. There was nothing wrong with the economy before the pandemic. Working from the net loss, we went from 234,000 to about 212,000 jobs in Brevard, and that was quick.”

Slotkin said he has been looking at data over 25 years, where the economy starts going back up. Now, it is not going up, so it is not fully back. The pace to recovering those jobs is not happening yet.

The professor is watching to see what recovery bills the federal government will produce.

“We are going to need a little bit of help to push us over the top, and we are doing better than the regular economy,” Slotkin said. “The national economy is at 6 percent, and we are only down about 2.5 percent, so we are doing better than the national economy. But I am afraid to say that some of the closed businesses may never come back.

“Some businesses have adapted. My regular mode of living was to go out to dinner on Friday night, but we don’t do that anymore,” Slotkin said. “We have found places that deliver. They trade one for another as places that can adapt.”

An ongoing solution to stimulate Brevard County businesses is the federal CARES Act that still has funds available, said Smith. Businesses can apply for those funds through the county.

“From my perspective, it is to help small businesses that have been affected that don’t have large funds. We need to get them back into the economy as it rebounds,” Smith said.

“I am just like everybody else that is holding his breath. People will feel comfortable going out to the public again if there is a vaccine on the horizon so we can’t get this thing. We need to hang on,” Smith added.