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Joint study by Nassau and Suffolk to assess COVID-19's economic impact

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Nassau County

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Nassau County Executive Laura Curran at a hearing in December. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Nassau and Suffolk counties have commissioned an Islandwide study of the economic impact of the coronavirus and the shutdown of nonessential businesses to prevent its spread.

The study will be used by county officials to respond to businesses’ needs and lobby for additional federal and state aid. The cost, up to $130,000, is being split by the counties’ Industrial Development Agencies using their fee income, not taxpayer dollars.

HR&A Advisors, an economic development consulting firm in Manhattan, will do the work in weeks, not months, according to Nassau IDA executive director Harry Coghlan and Suffolk IDA executive director Anthony J. Catapano.

“They will study how we get back to having a healthy economy again,” Catapano said during a Suffolk IDA meeting last week. “It makes sense to have a joint study because we are one island.”

Suffolk’s hiring of the consulting firm took place a week after Nassau approved a contract.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said, “The data that we collect from this study will inform our decision-making process so that resources are deployed to industries that are most impacted.”

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran agreed, adding, “The analysis and projections will give us a clear picture of how Long Island’s industry sectors and their workforce are faring – retail, hospitality, construction/development, healthcare, commercial real estate, manufacturers, film, higher education, nonprofits and many others.”

The Islandwide study is expected to use the results of surveys conducted by the counties between mid-March and April 2.

The Nassau survey of about 1,400 businesses found only 4.8% expect to report a profit for 2020, and for many it will be less than $100,000. Seven in 10 business owners said they may lay off employees and more than half already had, according to Hofstra University, which conducted the survey.

In the Suffolk survey, about 1,280 business owners responded and, as a group, they had laid off or furloughed more than half of their workforce: nearly 7,600 people out of a total of more than 13,700.

More than 175,000 Long Islanders have filed for unemployment benefits in the past four weeks, part of the 1.2 million New Yorkers who filed claims in the same period. For three weeks, the Island posted the largest percentage increase in claims among the state’s 10 regions.

In two surveys conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York from April 2 to April 10, service firms in the state, northern New Jersey and Fairfield, Connecticut, and factories in the state “indicated that they could weather the pandemic and related shutdown for a month or two, but would be increasingly concerned if it took significantly longer for business to return to something close to normal,” the bank said last week.

In the surveys, factory and service firm executives predicted the effects of the coronavirus outbreak would last, on average, an additional five months.

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