CHAPEL HILL – Local business experts are calling for “emergency cash relief” for small businesses and the “working poor” in view of the sudden economic fallout caused by the coronavirus.

“Let’s be perfectly frank. We are witnessing a painful decline in our global economy,” said UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School Professor Christian Lundblad in a press briefing call via teleconference on Tuesday.

“We’re almost certainly going to enter a global recession.”

A slate of experts from UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School and its affiliated Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise convened on the call to discuss the global economic and financial market implications of the virus. The sudden downturn is especially hitting hard small businesses, and the working poor whose incomes fall below a given poverty line due to low-income jobs and low familial household income.

It comes after the worst day for US stocks since 1987’s “Black Monday”  — with no real recovery in sight.  An NC State economist predicts “five digit” losses in North Carolina where nearly 5 million people hold jobs.

“We need to think deeply about how to keep severely impacted businesses afloat,” Lundblad said. “This is about finding a way to manage through a couple of tricky months.”

He stressed, however, there is a role for fiscal policy and even suggested that the government begin sending a “significant check” to every American making less the specified amount.

Kenan Institute Executive Director Professor Greg Brown also supported an immediate “emergency aid package” to keep severely impacted businesses afloat; and another capital injection down the track in two to 10 months.

“Small businesses are starved for working capital. They are not going to make payroll,” Brown said. “It’s in no way a fault of their own that they’re facing this disruption.”

As for how individuals should be managing their finances and retirement portfolios, he stressed not to panic.

“Panicking right now risks selling at the bottom,” Brown said. “People’s fear and instinct can really hurt retirement prospects.”

And he referred to the “oft-cited” rule for asset allocation. It states that individuals should hold a percentage of stocks equal to 100 minus their age. So, for a typical 60-year-old, 40 percent of the portfolio should be equities. The rest would comprise of high-grade bonds, government debt, and other relatively safe assets.

His conclusion: “Investors should not be taking more risks than they can tolerate when the market takes a dive. The market could still go down another 25 percent.”

Report: Virus puts millions of jobs at risk; economist predicts ‘5 digit’ losses in NC