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State data sheds light on pandemic's costly impact

Posted at 3:15 PM, Sep 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-29 00:16:42-04

PHOENIX — It’s no secret Valley businesses were dealt a devastating blow when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the state.

The losses put tens of thousands of out of a job, and in many cases, set the progress they’d made back years.

“We were looking at 2020 as being just a banner year for us,” said Gregory Asplin.

Since 2017, Asplin has been distributing Desert Cider House Cider to bars across the Valley.

Like most businesses, Asplins’ started small. “We did it really bare bones, you know small scale because we didn’t know if there was really a market for it,” said Asplin.

The orders poured in, along with the fanfare. In fact, by January of this year, the company was debt-free and poised for a profit.

“I think we did some sales in March and then crickets. It just stopped because all the bars shut down, our distributor had picked up a lot of cider and they were just sitting on it, they couldn’t move it,” said Asplin.

Yelp recently released its economic impact report, which found 60 percent of businesses that closed during the pandemic, wouldn’t reopen. “Our sales this year basically were back to month one of our whole operation,” said Asplin.

In May, businesses across the board took a beating. According to records from The Arizona Department of Revenue, state tax collections from businesses were down 10 percent, around 57 million dollars compared to last year.

The hardest hit were restaurants, down 41 percent. Hotels were down 78 percent and amusement parks down 72 percent. Other industries continued to thrive; like transporting and towing, up 97 percent. And contracting holding steady up 14 percent.

Fast forward to August, and things seem to be improving. Tax revenue is now up 10 percent, taking in nearly 55 million dollars more this year than last.

The biggest winners include retail, up 7 percent or nearly 25 million dollars. But restaurants, hotels, and amusement parks continue to lose millions. “All these people just barely hanging on and a month or so from ruin,” said Asplin.

Sadly, Asplin closed down his business while he could still break even. The city of Chandler is determined to put a halt on those situations, recently rolling out nearly 10 million dollars in grants to small businesses. They’re also launching a program to help pay for purchases of PPE.

“Getting that money into these businesses hands are going to be what’s going to turn this around, they need help now,” said Chandler of Commerce CEO Terri Kimble.

What this all equates to is a massive number of Arizonans out of work. Depending on unemployment to support themselves and their families. Most now prey the hopeful data reflected in the latest numbers signal a significant rebound.