ROCK COUNTY, Wis.—The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented spike in unemployment filings across the country, and local economic development officials are urging Rock County businesses to participate in a survey tracking the effects of the virus on all business sectors.

Businesses across Wisconsin are being asked to participate in the effort that could help state and federal agencies better target areas in need of economic aid, including federal disaster declaration funding.The study is being conducted by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh’s Center for Customized Research and Services (CCRS).

Questions posed to businesses aim to quantify problems from company layoffs to billing and supply issues caused by COVID-19 disruption.

“It is important that companies take the time to participate in this survey as the data collected could help drive public policy to direct resources to businesses experiencing the greatest need in the swiftest means possible,” said Greater Beloit Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Andrew Janke.

Downtown Beloit Association Executive Director Shauna El-Amin said she sent the survey to all DBA member businesses to increase local participation.

“During this tough time, we have seen so many of our businesses collaborate in exciting ways,” El-Amin said. “This isn’t something that we could have planned for, but the creativity and support that has come from it has been amazing.”

That peer-to-peer collaboration only grows when local business groups get involved, said Visit Beloit Executive Director Celestino Ruffini.

“A crisis brings out opportunities for peer organizations to work collaboratively across our different missions,” Ruffini said. “The local business community, especially in Beloit, benefits from economic organizations working alongside each other to maintain and grow our business community.”

The first survey was released on Wednesday and to date nearly 700 Wisconsin companies have responded, said CCRS Interim Director Jeffrey Sachse.

“We anticipate hearing from thousands of businesses throughout this process,” Sachse said. “This would be among the largest surveys of its kind currently in the field in the state.”

Surveys will be issued to businesses monthly, Sachse said, with businesses able to respond starting the first week to 10 days of every month for the foreseeable future.

“It is important that we collect information from as many businesses in as many communities as possible,” Sachse said. “We want to be able to share these impacts with as many organizations as possible. We also want to track this information over time as we know that the pandemic has not impacted every sector of the economy equally or at the same time. We want to make sure that we have as accurate of a sense as possible of what these impacts are.”

Published findings will be available at uwosh.edu/ccrs/covid-19-survey. If you are a business owner, the study can be taken by visiting bit.ly/2JyPtcn. All responses are considered confidential, the survey’s website says and will “only be reported in aggregate.”