HAYS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN)– Hays County leaders just announced they’re extending their disaster declaration.
Businesses there are starting to feel the effects, saying that social distancing is affecting their bottom line.
“Austin kind of had this a little bit earlier with South By Southwest. With us, it kinda started hitting at the end of last week and over the weekend … We’re in uncharted waters right now. This is new to all of us,” says Jason Mock, president of the San Marcos Area Chamber of Commerce.
“Everyone is just amazed at how fast — it was very warm to hot all of a sudden,” says Monte Sheffield, who owns Palmer’s Restaurant in San Marcos.
He says he noticed a decline on Friday and through the weekend, he saw about half the sales he normally does — about $30,000 worth.
“We’re in uncharted waters right now, this is new to all of us,” Mock says.
Mock says they expect to see long-term effects of COVID-19 on the local economy, but it’s too soon to say how bad it could be.
“This is the time when people were starting to shop for spring break and getting ready for the summer season and people are staying home, so that has an impact on our sales tax,” Mock says.
Texas Pie Company owner Julie Albertson is trying to keep her workers on the payroll — and safe.
On Monday, they closed down the dining area and switched to strictly to-go orders.
“We’re trying to keep our workers busy in the evening so that they don’t have to have as much contact with people during the day, even if it is just for pickups. That way we can still keep the supply chain open and keep our business open and keep our employees’ wages coming in without having to shut down for two months,” Albertson says.
She says she normally delivers 200-300 pies twice a week for wholesale orders. This week, that’s down to about 10 pies.
“A lot of those different restaurants are just not wanting to order because they’re already feeling a little bit of a hit and a crunch from everything, as well,” Albertson says.
Sheffield has had to cut his orders, too.
“We’re being cautious of our perishable products and what we’re going to order as well because if the government came down and said, ‘Hey, ya’ll need to close,’ or the sales are doing what they’re doing [now], we need to cut back,” Sheffield says.
Sheffield says he’s already thinking about the logistics of switching to to-go or delivery orders.
Both business owners have already scaled back their hours and increased cleaning efforts.
Albertson recognizes she might have to temporarily lay people off and has already spoken with her staff as well as the Texas Workforce Commission about getting those employees on unemployment, should that happen.
But both Albertson and Sheffield say they’re relying on neighbors to keep them going, even while social distancing.
“Support local, buy some gift cards possibly to help them out now and come out later,” Sheffield says.
Hays County leaders are also encouraging local businesses to utilize the U.S. Small Business Administration, which is offering low-interest loans to small businesses and nonprofits that have been hit by COVID-19.