With many businesses shut down completely and others operating at a reduced capacity for an unknown duration as yet, the economic impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak are not yet known but are sure to be far-reaching.
The closures include those that are quite visible to residents, such as the Antelope Valley Mall, which was forced to temporarily shut down under the state’s public health orders, which took effect Friday. Notices were posted on the mall’s website and on the outer doors.
“Nothing is more important to us than the health and well-being of our Antelope Valley Mall family and our local community,” the notices read. “We continue to work closely with local, state and federal health officials to maintain a safe environment for our community. We are committed to providing outstanding service to our guests and look forward to welcoming them back soon. We encourage all members of the community to take care of themselves and their families and follow steps in accordance with the latest advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health officials to assist in mitigating the spread of the virus.”
Some mall stores, such as Macy’s, had closed prior to the enhanced state and county restrictions.
Mall restaurants that offer takeout and/or delivery and have outside access are still open for business.
Others, equally hard hit, are small businesses without a storefront to close.
Photographer Ruby Varela owns Pixels and Prints photography studio and with her husband, Jonathan, operates The Hacienda Valyermo wedding venue.
The restrictions on gatherings of people and social distancing requirements hurt both businesses, not only weddings but also portrait photography sessions. The latter is in part because people do not want to leave home unnecessarily, she said.
As for the venue, the restrictions even prior to the “Safer at Home” statewide mandate made weddings nearly impossible. The venue has nine weddings scheduled before June that are now in question.
“A lot of them are heartbroken,” Varela said.
They have been working with couples to reschedule, and some are choosing to cancel the events all together, she said.
Rescheduling is difficult with limited future dates available — most weddings are booked a year in advance —especially the desired Saturday dates during warm weather for the outdoor venue.
“So the people looking to cancel, that’s mainly the issue,” she said.
The cancellations affect not only the site, but also all the associated vendors, such as caterers, florists, photographers and musicians, so the effect ripples through a number of small businesses.
Added to that, for many businesses refunding that many contracts is more than they have on hand. For the soonest weddings, vendors like caterers and florist also have already invested in the necessary supplies as well and could be out thousands of dollars, Varela said.
“We’re trying to work with each other and get the best outcome,” Varela said. “Obviously, they know that we’re not at fault. We’re trying to work together.”
A variety of federal, state and local agencies have ramped up emergency assistance programs.
The Small Business Administration offers low-interest federal disaster loans, and loan guarantees are available through the state’s IBank.
State resources are available for businesses that need to reduce workers’ hours to use unemployment insurance to avoid layoffs, as well as support for employers and their workers should closure and layoffs become necessary.
State tax filing and payment deadlines have been extended to June 15, utilities are waiving late fees and avoiding shut-offs and Los Angeles County has issued a moratorium on commercial and residential evictions.
For employees impacted, the usual waiting period has been waived for disability insurance for those who are sick or quarantined due to COVID-19 exposure and paid family leave is available for caregivers of those sickened with COVID-19.
The one-week waiting period has also been waived for unemployment insurance for those workers who lose their job or have their hours reduced.
Websites for the cities of Palmdale and Lancaster have detailed listings of assistance that is available for businesses and employees and how to access it.
Both cities have also set up interactive maps showing local restaurants offering takeout and/or delivery service, in order to help residents to continue to support these local businesses.