A survey of nearly 200 year-round and seasonal business owners on the Island found that the Covid-19 outbreak has hit the Vineyard business community hard, with a large majority of respondents saying they believed the pandemic would have a long-lasting, negative impact on the Island economy.

The survey was conducted by Christine Flynn, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission’s economic development and affordable housing planner, between May 1 and May 15 across a wide array of sectors including retail, construction, restaurants and lodging.

Released this week, results show the economic impact of the pandemic has been deeply felt by both year-round and seasonal businesses, from corporate enterprises to sole proprietors.

Businesses were also queried about the efficacy and impact of CARES Act funds. More than half the respondents said that they had already applied or planned to apply for federal money, and 64 per cent said they were aware of the grant funding.

But despite federal grant money and payroll protection loans, the survey found no one was untouched by the pandemic.

“I want to go back to work and so do my employees,” one respondent wrote. “The PPP loan only paid one month rent for me and my entire year is affected. I might be forced to close my business that I have put all of my sweat and tears into for the past 10 years.”

The survey compiled results from 179 respondents, 111 representing year round businesses and 68 representing seasonal businesses. More than 60 per cent of the businesses surveyed were either sole proprietors or had fewer than five employees.

Respondents represented all six towns on the Island, as well as Gosnold.

In one question answered by 168 year-round and seasonal businesses, 38 per cent said they had been forced to lay off staff due to the pandemic, while 62 per cent noted a decline in customers and 58 per cent noted a decline in sales. More than 30 per cent noted supply chain problems or disruptions in distribution.

Nearly all respondents said they would lose revenue as a result of the pandemic, with 38 per cent saying they expected losses would be more than half their normal yearly earnings. Nearly a quarter of respondents projected losses in the 26 to 50 per cent range, while 15 per cent estimated losses would exceed 75 per cent.

The pandemic has hit the restaurant and lodging industries particularly hard, the survey found, with nearly 80 per cent of those businesses projecting revenue losses over 50 per cent. There were 23 responses from restaurants and 23 from lodging proprietors.

Cash flow was a serious concern, with 37 per cent of respondents saying they could operate for no more than three more months under the current circumstances and more than 50 per cent saying they would have to shut down operations in less than a year if the situation continued.

Respondents were well informed about the CARES Act, the survey found, and most had reached out to a financial adviser to seek help through a payroll protection grant or economic and disaster stimulus relief. But many said the temporary loans were only a stopgap in what appears to be a long-term economic problem for the Island. While some said federal money helped in the short-term, almost all respondents said their outlook was unpredictable — and even ominous.

“The current programs only marginally mitigate the economic effects of the pandemic,” one respondent wrote.

“Although we will reopen the business sooner, the effects of the situation will have an adverse affect on our business operations for the next 12 to 18 months,” another wrote.

“There is simply not enough relief available to manage through these tough times,” a third wrote.

Despite their gloomy reports, many respondents expressed hope, with 70 per cent of closed businesses planning to open their operations in the next three months. Others pointed to widespread testing as a possible solution outside of federal funding — a process that recently kicked into high gear with the introduction of an asymptomatic testing site at the high school since the survey was conducted in early May.

“Really, this comes down to having adequate testing,” one respondent wrote. “No amount of funding can make up for a lack of consumer confidence.”

Asked about what recommendations they would make to legislators to compensate for shortcomings in the CARES Act, many respondents suggested clear, streamlined guidance about the reopening process and further assistance navigating the bureaucratic red tape associated with the loan applications. Others suggested extending the PPP loan availability, offering the loans to businesses with less than five employees and shortening its turnaround time.

Others, hit hard by the pandemic and feeling paralyzed, were at a complete loss.

“I wouldn’t know where to begin,” one respondent wrote. “This has all been so heartbreaking.”