With many school districts reopening last month with various plans to protect children, their families and teachers, 43 percent of Wisconsin business leaders responding to the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh’s fifth statewide COVID-19 economic impact survey administered from Aug. 6 to 21 believe their local district’s plans would have significant impact on workforce availability.

Another one-third of respondents were still unsure about the impact, said Jeffrey Sachse, interim director of UWO’s Center for Customized Research and Services.

“This comes as most businesses report fewer than a quarter of their employees normally face childcare needs with typical accommodations including scheduling changes or flexible hours,” Sachse said. “This is poised to again be a significant issue as businesses generally are illequipped to offer other accommodations at the same time that the state’s childcare infrastructure is strained beyond capacity.”

Businesses representing 39,705 employees across reported:

• Income gains of $5.7 million

• Inventory gains of $4.7 million

• Wage and productivity gains of $2.5 million

• Other financial losses of $1 million

“The August survey results again point to a business community that is recovering, though recovery slowed significantly from the June reopening.

Employment gains also slowed despite a declining state unemployment rate, suggesting that firms are either unable to add additional staff or are hesitant to do so given ongoing uncertainties,” Sachse said.

Businesses similarly continue to express concerns regarding customer traffic and anticipate additional rounds of financial assistance even as their interest in currently available programs diminishes.

The survey is a partnership of UWO, the state’s nine Regional Development Organizations, including New North, and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. The August survey received a total of 441 responses.

The September survey began the week of Aug. 31. Results can be found at uwosh.edu/ccrs/covid-19-survey.