Struggles with cash flow and concerns about regaining customers when the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic wanes are issues Central Kentucky farms are facing, according to the results of a recent Kentucky Equine Education Project survey.
The organization known as KEEP released the results of its informal survey May 22, sharing the aggregated responses from 109 equine businesses. People associated with breeding farms, boarding facilities, and training centers represented a majority of the survey respondents. Three-quarters of the businesses had fewer than 11 employees at the beginning of the year.
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While those taking the survey didn't note a big change in full-time employees from the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, 37.5% said they had to lay off workers, suspend pay, or reduce salaries. Almost 39% indicated they were allowing employees to work from home.
"Cash flow problems" is the biggest issue equine businesses are facing, with 52% reporting financial stress. Most respondents said they are managing by postponing capital improvement projects and larger purchases and in some cases have suspended operations. Nearly 37% reported they had applied for the federal Paycheck Protection Program, and 29% said they did not pursue any financial assistance. Of those seeking assistance, 30% said they received that assistance. Overall, the federal relief program got mixed reviews, with 24% feeling the assistance offered has been enough and 38.5% believing the aid has not been adequate. Another 38.5% answered they were not sure about the adequacy of the federal programs.
Fifty-six percent thought Gov. Andy Beshear was doing an adequate job of handling the response to the pandemic, and with regard to "getting back to normal," nearly 59% indicated that retaining customers affected by the virus lockdown will be their biggest challenges. Another 28% were concerned about the availability of supplies once the economy reopens.
The survey attracted several show horse business operators, but 54% said they were affected by the canceling of race meetings and 35% said they were affected by canceled 2-year-olds in training sales.
"I have an annual crop of 40 yearlings that are bought to sell as 2-year-olds. We have sold a total of 10. So 30 more in inventory that have been carried months longer than budgeted for," said one respondent.
Several respondents urged Kentucky legislators to adopt some type of tax relief programs for this year while businesses fight to regain their financial footing.