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Houston Business Barometer Week 4: Half of Local Businesses Have Sought Federal Funding

Published Apr 29, 2020 by A.J. Mistretta


Half of small businesses surveyed by the Greater Houston Partnership this week said they have applied for assistance through federal stimulus programs, and about 60% of those have received funding so far. About a quarter of respondents say they do not intend to apply for assistance. 

A total of 111 companies responded to the fourth Houston Business Barometer survey conducted by the Partnership between April 27-28. 

Since the survey began four weeks ago, the number of respondents who have instituted work-from-home practices in their company has grown to nearly 92% (up from 84%), while those who have shut down whole or partial operations increased to nearly 30% (up from 22%). 

Approximately 39% of companies said they have enacted a hiring freeze, roughly the same as four weeks ago. 

The near-term outlook among business leaders is improving a bit. Those describing their outlook as “better than a week ago” jumped to 22.7% this week, up from just 5.7% when the survey began. 

The survey showed that revenues have increased for some since week 1 and those experiencing decreasing revenues are falling. 

Asked how the fallout from the pandemic has impacted their operations, 44% say the impact has been severe (down from 53% four weeks ago), and another 36% say their operations have been moderately impacted (up from nearly 29% four weeks ago). 

Respondent firms’ top three concerns continue to be revenue/sales (84%), employee well-being (63%) and profits (63%). 

The following breaks down how long firms now believe they could remain afloat based on projected cash flow and without federal assistance:

Time Period                       Respondents
1-2 weeks                          0%
3-4 weeks                          2.8%
5-6 weeks                          5.5%
7-8 weeks                          9.2%
3-6 months                        21.1%
Longer than 6 months      51.4%
Don’t know                        10.1%

See results from Week 3

Learn about the resources available via the Greater Houston Business Recovery Center. Visit the Partnership's COVID-19 Resource page for updates, guidance for employers and more information. And sign up for daily email alerts from the Partnership as the situation develops. 

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Houston Companies Planning Return to Offices, Plot Post-COVID Changes

Twenty-eight percent of Houston area companies say they have already fully reopened their offices and worksites as the region continues its recovery from COVID-19. Another 9% are planning to fully reopen in April or May and 21% believe they will reopen in June, July or August, according to a new survey by the Greater Houston Partnership of its member companies. September is the target date for 11% of companies while another 3% say it will be October or later. A substantial number (28%) say they haven’t yet determined a reopening date. The vast majority (83%) of respondents said the decision to reopen will be made at the local level and 69% said they will stagger employee return during their reopening instead of calling everyone back at the same time.  Roughly two-thirds (64%) of companies have made decisions on their in-person vs. remote work approach going forward.  Of those, 80% are going to expect employees to be in the office three or more days a week.  When it comes to vaccine protocols, 75% of companies say they will encourage but not require employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine before returning to work. Just 6% say they will require the vaccine before employees can return and the remaining 19% have not yet determined a formal plan. Many respondents said a key factor in deciding when to return to the office is that all staff have access to the vaccine.  As new COVID-19 cases in our region decline and more Houstonians get vaccinated, area businesses are beginning to contemplate what the “new normal” will look like post-pandemic and when to begin moving in that direction. “We deployed this survey to help guide companies on that next leg of the journey,” said Partnership President and CEO Bob Harvey. “These results tell us that companies are eagerly encouraging their employees to get vaccinated and preparing to bring employees back into the workplace in a carefully considered, safe manner.”  “I want to be clear, we are not out of danger yet; serious virus variants are present in Houston, and more residents need to be vaccinated in the coming weeks before we can definitively declare the worst over,” Harvey said. “Nevertheless, with all adult Texans now eligible for the vaccine and dose availability continuing to ramp up, companies need to prepare now for how they will effectively manage in a post-COVID environment.”  A total of 133 companies responded to the Partnership survey conducted March 22-25. Nearly half of respondents (46%) said they are comfortable attending in-person events today while another 25% said they won’t be ready for in-person events until the CDC declares the nation has reached herd immunity. The remaining respondents said they expect to be comfortable over the next few months.  How companies will assist their employees in the new hybrid environment was the focus of another survey question. Thirty-three percent said they have offered some form of payment/reimbursement to employees to outfit their home workspaces and another 10% say they are considering such a program. Click here for a PDF of the topline results of the survey. 
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