Pandemic has had ‘severe negative impact’ on business

MVC survey also indicates troubled times ahead for the Island economy.

Island businesses have felt the pinch from the COVID-19 pandemic. - Lexi Pline

It’s been pretty clear that the COVID-19 pandemic decimated Island businesses over the past three months, and has left business owners wondering what the next three months will bring.

Now a survey by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission backs up those assertions.

The survey results, released June 8, show Island businesses have had sharp decreases in sales or have been forced to close, employees have been laid off, and some have struggled to get the federal assistance offered through the CARES Act.

There were 179 businesses that responded to the survey, which included restaurants, accommodations, construction, and retail establishments. A majority of the businesses surveyed (62 percent) are year-round businesses and 62 percent of them reported they own their own office space.

According to the results, 71 percent of the businesses surveyed expect the pandemic to have a “severely negative impact” on their business. Another 18 percent expect a “somewhat negative impact.” Less than 10 percent of those surveyed believe COVID-19 will have mild to no impact on the Island economy.

Here are some other highlights from the results:

  • 54 percent of the businesses surveyed were closed due to COVID-19 at the time of the survey
  • 38 percent were forced to lay off employees
  • 62 percent saw a decline in customers
  • 58 percent saw a decline in sales
  • 58 percent had events postponed or canceled
  • 39 percent saw a disruption in supplies
  • Of 168 responses, 70 percent said their businesses would reopen in the next three months
  • Of 150 responses, 38 percent projected they would make 50 percent less than they made the previous year
  • 60 percent of the restaurants and 40 percent of accommodations expected to lose 51 to 75 percent of the revenue they had the previous year
  • 38 percent of the businesses indicated they could operate zero to three months with the current cash flow and reserves
  • 57 percent applied for Payroll Protection funds through the CARES Act


Christine Flynn, economic development and affordable housing planner for the MVC, was not immediately available for comment on the survey.

Some of the survey comments showed the frustration of business owners over federal assistance. “I might be forced to close my business that I have put all my sweat and tears [into] for the last 10 years,” one business owner wrote, noting that the Payroll Protection Program [PPP] loan provided enough to stay afloat for only one month.

Another business owner called the PPP requirements “confusing,” particularly for the Island’s seasonal businesses. 

“No, there is simply not enough relief available to manage through these tough times,” another wrote. “My business is currently losing $20K per month, and still having to pay for business insurance.”

Other survey responses read like the comment section of an MV Times story, with commenters turning to partisan politics about the pandemic — one commenter using President Trump’s term for COVID-19, the “Chinese virus,” and another saying that “unbiased fact/truths” are needed about the situation. “Time to grow up and put aside the blame game,” the person wrote.

One commenter put the situation bluntly. “If [the] state/towns do not allow businesses to open fully without occupancy reductions in time for the summer season — Memorial Day weekend — Cape Cod and the Islands will be absolutely destroyed,” the unidentified business owner wrote. “We only [have] three months to make a living that has to sustain our families for the year. Without it, we will see everything from business closures to bankruptcies, to plummeting real estate values. The whole region will be destroyed.”


  1. Unfortunately many islanders are getting what they asked for, since March the rally cry has been no off islanders! Unfortunately this is not how our economy works and unless something magically changes, tough times are likely ahead. Hopefully the towns enact pro business / tourism measures to mitigate the pain.

    • No one asked for Coronavirus and Vineyard businesses are not unique or immune, just because the numbers are okay here. We are not the only tourist based community in the world that is suffereing. Calling back tourists is not the answer, unless it is done with the safest ways to open up. Nothing will be the same. Those who want to jump back in to the old normal will create the increases in cases we are seeing elsewhere. It will take years to recover financially, and some businesses won’t at all. I know some places that have already made the heartbreaking decision to shutter for good. This pandemic is far from over. Many places that have more fully reopened are seeing spikes in their virus and death numbers. Many people who have had the virus and “recovered” are still having heart, lung, kidney and liver problems. Young people are needing organ transplants due to the damage caused by the virus. Memorial Day gatherings and protests have added to the numbers of cases, too. Those who do not wear masks in public at all times and try to keep a safe distance are keeping us from doing better. There’s no pain to mitigate if you are dead or incapacitated from an illness with long-lasting effects. Most everyone is hurting in some way and most are doing without what we formerly were used to. That’s the reality. The lie that the virus is overblown or past its peak so that businesses can get back to normal is very damaging. Of course, politics enters into it becauses of the series of fatal lies put forth onto the American people by the President of the United States from the beginning when we were told it would be gone by April and the warmer weather. The virus is under control in some areas because people have listened to the experts and followed all medical and scientic advice, and not listened to the idiot who suggesting ingesting Clorox and is currently planning rallies but making people sign waivers that they won’t sue if they get Covid-19. Imagine if our local businesses let you browse and dine in their restaurants, unmasked and shoulder to shoulder, but made you sign waivers? Who is stupid enough to think they can walk around without a mask? Look to the leaders who don’t and you’ll see the answer.

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