The Los Angeles County Business Federation (BizFed) released data from its annual survey and produced a surprise in businesses’ top concern. Knocking taxes and fee as the top concern after nine consecutive years was the problem of homelessness.

Three-quarters of the 371 businesses responding to the survey said that homelessness was an extremely critical concern.

With coronavirus ripping through businesses and the economy it has upended the perspective of business leaders. The growth of homelessness, along with many other issues, are tied to the struggling economy, poverty, and the loss of jobs.

Another issue that spiked in this year’s BizFed survey that can be tied to difficult economic conditions is the rise of crime as a problem. Crime was listed twelfth last year in the business survey. It shot up to third this year.

It is not as if the reigning champ of business concerns, taxes and fees, disappeared. It slipped to the second position in the survey of extremely critical concerns. However, combining the checkmarks of “extremely critical” concerns and “moderately critical” concerns, taxes and fees actually edged past homelessness 97% to 96.1%. 

Still, businesses decided the homelessness problem was the greatest worry, and that concern has been growing. The homelessness issue rose from ninth in the group’s 2018 survey to third last year, to first in 2020.

The L.A. area’s economic outlook doesn’t look promising with 40% of the businesses reporting on the survey that they will have significantly lower hiring in the coming year.

Government’s response to the Covid-19 crisis received few plaudits from the business community. Founding BizFed CEO Tracy Hernandez said despite a flurry of policies, they “do little to assist or make it easier for businesses to reopen, rehire and recover.”

Meanwhile, the issue of legislative gridlock was also a sore point for the L.A. business community. Legislative gridlock climbed from tenth last year to fourth in 2020 as an extremely critical concern. 

In a statement, David Fleming, BizFed Founding Chair, said, “Businesses who collectively employ millions in the Los Angeles region continue to believe that our voices are not heard and our solutions are too often ignored at the local, state and federal levels. And, once again, we see stalemates holding our job-creating industries hostage.”

What lost attention from the business leaders was the issue of improved infrastructure, which fell from second last year to 14th this year as a chief concern. BizFed concluded that the drop was tied to the work-at-home response to the pandemic, with workers need for public transportation reduced. 

Homelessness is a sign that improving economic policy is part of the solution, but the stubborn pandemic has upset many plans. Gridlock is not only a problem for legislative action, but handcuffs business response to persistent problems facing the Los Angeles region, as well.