Virus Outbreak Texas Daily Life

A woman walks past a boarded up business on 6th Street in Austin, Texas, Wednesday, March 25, 2020.

(The Center Square) – The pandemic has been the grim reaper of sorts to some businesses, with more than 1,500 closing in Austin, Texas, 1,000 in Round Rock and similar numbers in the suburbs.

“It is important to remember the majority of the closures have been small, often family-owned businesses,” Jason Ball, president and CEO of the Round Rock Chamber, told The Center Square. “When one of these businesses has to close its doors, it is not only felt in the community, but by the entrepreneurs, employees, and families impacted.”

A recent Yelp survey showed that approximately 9,000 businesses across Texas have closed since the beginning of the pandemic, and an additional 6,000 could close in the next few months if additional financial aid isn’t rendered or the economy doesn’t rebound.

“These closures affect the economy, affect people’s lives and livelihood because now they can’t have a job and that makes it difficult for them to put food on the table,” Vance Ginn, chief economist at Texas Public Policy Foundation, told The Center Square. “It also influences the government in the sense of the amount of tax receipts that are being collected from those individuals.”

As a result, Ginn said governments are examining areas of the budget that are ineffective and considering cuts to utilize taxpayers’ dollars best and put them toward programs that will help the neediest people.

Though there have been several business losses, sales tax revenue is actually growing. Ginn said that year over year, the sales tax revenue growth rate, though negative, has continued to decline, which shows growth at a faster pace. One thing that helped with sales tax collections was the CARES Act that put additional funds in the pockets of those drawing unemployment benefits.

“The side effects of helping people during this tough time was also that you had more taxes being collected,” Ginn said. “Now you see more jobs being created across the state, and more people having higher income continue to more sales tax.”

Community support has been critical for impacted businesses to survive. The Round Rock Chamber encouraged residents to buy locally while following social distancing guidelines to keep area businesses afloat. They also initiated Round Rock Cares, a collaboration between the city, chamber, community foundation and Dell Technologies, which helped to pay bills for more than 240 Round Rock businesses.

“It’s never easy to see businesses close, but Round Rock and the state of Texas are resilient,” Ball said. “We are working each and every day to help businesses reopen, find new opportunities for funding and revenue streams and doing our part to ensure we are providing resources needed to reopen as well as bring new businesses to the community that can help hire displaced workers.”

Business survival and economic recovery truly equal workers being able to put food on their families’ table.

“Really, the economy is people,” Ginn said. “This really affects people. We’ve got to think about how do we get these businesses going again.”

Ginn shared his thoughts about the federal Workplace Recovery Act, which will put money directly in businesses’ hands, allowing them to keep employees working. At the state and local level, the Texas Public Policy Foundation focuses on eliminating barriers for people to work and businesses to operate, including excessive regulations such as occupational licensing. State government must also be prudent so that taxes will not have to be raised during this time when so many people are struggling, he said.

“Coronavirus will continue to be a drag on the national economy until vaccines are sufficiently deployed to broadly protect the populous,” Ball said. “When that happens, businesses nationally will be looking to make smart investments in business supportive states like Texas. The environment for entrepreneurs and small businesses will improve when people can again gather and as new business comes to the region.”