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Survey: 92% of Puerto Rico businesses won’t be able to make payroll

A survey of 450 businesses in Puerto Rico revealed that about 92% of them will be unable to continue making payroll, as the island enters its third week of a sweeping government-mandated lockdown to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Furthermore, 85% of the businesses surveyed do not have a contingency fund, and 59% will not be able to operate beyond one month with their available capital.

The online poll created as part of a multi-sectoral voluntary initiative among organizations that promote entrepreneurship in Puerto Rico allows measuring the impact of the lockdown in place since Mar. 15 on the island’s business ecosystem.

Colmena66, a program run by the Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust, launched the survey on Mar. 20 through social media platforms. The Foundation for Puerto Rico the Center for Entrepreneurs, and other entities, supported the initiative.

“The data we’re collecting offers us a clearer view of the negative effects that the current crisis is having on our entrepreneurs,” said Samuel Merced, business development specialist at Colmena 66.

“It also allows us to establish what the short, medium and long-term aid should be for our small and medium companies,” he said.

From the data collected so far, it appears that 58% of the businesses surveyed are closed, 19% operate partially, 9% operate exclusively online, and 5% are fully operational.

“It’s not just about understanding the needs of our small and medium companies in the face of the pandemic, we also seek to identify areas of business development opportunities for them,” said Annie Mayol, COO of the Foundation for Puerto Rico.

“The experience that nonprofits have gained by working closely with entrepreneurs after Hurricanes Irma and María taught us that it’s vital to support these businesses quickly, not only with financial aid; but also with technical advice so that when they reopen, they can adapt to the new economic environment,” she said.

Mayol added that in light of the announcements by different government agencies about financial aid that will be made available for this sector, “not only do we have to carry out a comprehensive education effort to get the money out to everyone who qualifies, but we also need to support them to access other federal aid.”

“It’s a joint effort between organizations and businesses. We need them to be able to reopen after the pandemic,” she said.

The other organizations that joined this initiative and are promoting the survey on their social media pages are: Puerto Rico Health Trust, Centro para Puerto Rico, Grupo Guayacán, Startup.pr, Biblioteca Centro para Puerto Rico, Piloto 151, Génesis Agroempresarial, Centro Unido de Detallistas, Resiliency and Business Innovation, Causa Local, Kiva, Cámara de Comercio LGBTTQ, the Autonomous Municipality of Caguas, and P.E.C.E.S.

The survey has gathered information from businesses throughout the island and from a variety of industries, including tourism, which represents 19% of participants.

Author Details
Business reporter with 25 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other areas of the economy.

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