COVID-19 could impact Manhattan, K-State financially, economy professor said

(Illustration by Abigail Compton | Collegian Media Group)

After weeks of COVID-19 related closures and layoffs, much of the United States has been left to wonder how the economy will survive. Manhattan is no different.

“Like in the national economy, the effects aren’t going to be felt evenly among the different people in the community,” Steve Cassou, professor of economics, said. “There’s going to be some people that are going to be economically hurt very badly and other people that will not feel so much pain.”

Cassou said most people working at the university will get through this without too many challenges, but people who work in other professions — particularly those who work in restaurants — could experience a lot of hardship.

As communities and businesses begin to open back up, Cassou said businesses, especially retailers, could experience a slow rise in shoppers because of the lingering fear of gathering in large groups.

Cassou also said Kansas State could experience some loss as well, such as a decline in student enrollment next fall. In March, President Richard Myers told the Kansas Board of Regents K-State could lose $22 million, though that number could increase.

“There’s gonna be a number of different things that impact K-State, but one of them will be how many students come back to K-State. There will probably be some declines. I don’t know how many.” Cassou said.

Coussou said desire for particular majors, like engineering and software, will rise because companies like Microsoft and Zoom will scale up in terms of their offerings for online work.

Students with skills in job fields that are in less demand, Cassou said, could experience a harder time finding jobs.

Cassou said it could take about five years for students in other skill sets to recover and get to where they would’ve been if they graduated into a better economy. The best thing for students struggling to find jobs in their fields is to gain experience in the mean time.

“Just be positive, lower your expectations,” Cassou said. “Don’t hold out. Take something and make yourself important for whatever company you’re going to work for.”

Once a vaccine is found, Cassou said that the economy will probably slowly return to its state prior to the pandemic.

Daryn Soldan, director of economic development in Manhattan, said as of right now, it is hard to know for certain where Manhattan is in terms of economic loss. He said he will find out more as unemployment reports and city sales tax reports come in.

The Chamber of Commerce has been working on a bridge loan program to help local businesses with financial support.

“They may do those federal applications, but those dollars aren’t going to be in their bank accounts the next day and they need funding to help bridge from right now while they are been closed for a period of time,” Soldan said.

The response is more short-term focused in order to encourage people to shop locally and support local businesses.