Congress has passed a $2 trillion rescue plan but before those funds start to flow, American companies from the owner of a single liquor store in Boston to corporate giants like Macy’s Inc., must decide what to do about April’s bills: Which obligations do they pay and which can they put off? How many employees can they afford to keep on the payroll? Can they get a break on rent?
The decisions they make this week could shape how deeply the economy is damaged by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Rent is due. Utilities are due. Credit card bills are due April 1,” said Hadley Douglas, who has laid off two workers from her liquor business, The Urban Grape. “The deadline is looming large and it is petrifying.” She said her landlord turned down a request to temporarily pay half the rent but said to keep in touch as it was focusing first on smaller, harder hit businesses.
Millions of Americans are suddenly out of work and many businesses have already closed under orders from state and local governments to close to prevent the spread of the virus. A record 3.28 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits in the week ended March 21.
The U.S. restaurant industry has lost $25 billion in sales since March 1, according to a survey of 5,000 owners by the National Restaurant Association. Nearly 50,000 stores of major U.S. retail chains have closed, according to the companies.
An estimated $20 billion in monthly retail real estate rents are due as early as this week, according to Marcus & Millichap, a commercial real estate services and consulting firm. Many retailers and restaurants have said they are not going to pay their April rents, which in turn poses a threat to the $3 trillion commercial mortgage market.