SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - A national study on the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic ranks the Mississippi Coast as the 15th most affected area.
The reason behind the forecast is that the travel and tourism industries will be disrupted, affecting economic activity.
From closed casinos and restaurants to low hotel occupancy, the Coast is taking a hit from the crisis.
The loss of jobs and sales tax revenue is expected to impact current municipal budgets.
“We’re anticipating a pretty significant impact to our budget. Late summer or early fall, we’ll be adopting that so we should have some idea about the numbers,” said Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes.
The Brookings Institution, a well-known think tank, released a study of the economic impact on cities and communities from the coronavirus pandemic. What they call the Gulfport, Biloxi and Pascagoula market was number 15 on the list of hardest-hit areas.
In Biloxi, with the casinos shut down and casino tax revenue sidelined, the bottom line is under fire.
“It’s a multi-million dollar hit every month,” according to Biloxi Mayor FoFo Gilich.
Mayor Gilich says he expects to be forced to adjust the city budget.
Normally, Captain Louis Skrmetta with Ship Island Excursions would be loading hundreds of passengers on his boats for a trip to Ship Island.
Instead, his business is on hold.
“It really hurts because we operate on a very thin profit margin. Our cash reserves over the winter have been expended. We’re usually hoping for cash flow this time of year so we can pay expenses and our employees. It’s really tough,” Skrmetta said.
During these trying times, elected officials and tourism leaders are spreading a message of encouragement, hoping there is light at the end of the tunnel.
“I’m hoping this will pass quickly and coast tourism will survive. We’d like to get going by Memorial Day and the July Fourth holiday,” said Skrmetta.
“We’ve dealt with disasters before, whether they’re natural or man-made. This is serious, but I think that the mentality of our political and community leaders, as well as our citizens, is that we’re going to get through this,” said Mayor Hewes.
The Brookings report says because of jobs in the most at-risk industries, the coast could lose 24% of its normal economic activity.