Small businesses say survival threatened

The Brillion News

The National Federation of Independent Business Research Center’s latest survey on the current impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on small business offers a stark contrast from the survey released 10 days ago.

The magnitude of disruption now on the small business sector is profound.

Currently, 76 percent of small businesses are negatively impacted by the outbreak of the coronavirus, a dramatic escalation from just under one-quarter of small businesses reporting the same earlier this month.

About five percent are positively impacted. These firms are likely experiencing stronger sales due to a sharp rise in demand for certain products, goods, and services. This will presumably ease in the coming weeks as consumers feel more secure about their personal supply levels.

One-in-five (20 percent) small businesses are not currently affected by the outbreak, but 77 percent of them anticipate that changing if the outbreak spreads to or spreads more broadly in their immediate area over the next three months.

This marks a sharp departure from the earlier survey where 43% of small businesses anticipated being impacted if the virus spread. Just four percent do not believe they will be impacted if the outbreak escalates and 18 percent are not sure.

Of those businesses negatively impacted, 23 percent are experiencing supply chain disruptions, 54 percent slower sales, and nine percent sick employees.

The owners citing sick employees likely responded out of heightened concern and precautions with sick employees showing some signs of cold or flu-like symptoms, but not necessarily because they have employees who have tested positive for the virus.

“The public health crisis is a main street economic crisis that has created unprecedented challenges for our small business owners and their employees,” said Bill G. Smith, NFIB State Director, “as state and federal government responds to the spread of the COVID-19 virus, it is critically important programs and policies are structured in way that will truly lessen the economic hardship being experienced by our state’s small business community.”

In Mercer, Matt Peter said he wiill run out of money at his automotive and diesel repair shop in two to three weeks. He started Southside Auto and Diesel Repair 17 years ago, but fears if Congress doesn’t act quickly to pass some sort of relief for small businesses, he’ll have to shut his doors.

This pandemic couldn’t have come at a worse time for Southside. Normally, Peter works on three to six cars per day. Today, he had zero appointments. He also has vehicles he’s already serviced sitting in his lot that his customers don’t want to pick up. That’s because they aren’t sure they’ll have enough money to make it through the outbreak, so they’re not paying their outstanding bills to Peter – which run as high as $1,600 and $2,300.

To make matters worse, Peter’s wife was just indefinitely laid off from the child care center where she worked.

Peter said he is trying to be proactive – he’s already applied for the Small Business Administration’s disaster loan program – but he’s frustrated that Congress hasn’t been able to agree on legislation that would ease some of the burdens on small business owners right now.

Almost all small business owners are taking some sort of action adjusting to their changing economic condition or to protect themselves from potential disruption. Just six percent of owners have not taken any action in response to the outbreak, a market departure from the 52 percent not taking action two weeks ago.

The level of concern among small business owners about the coronavirus impacting their business has elevated significantly over the past two weeks.

About 68 percent of small business owners are “very” concerned about its potential impact on their business compared to 16 percent in the earlier survey. Another 23% are somewhat concerned and 9% are slightly concerned. Just 1% are not at all concerned.

While many small businesses (47 percent) have not talked with their bank about financing needs, 30 percent are planning to do so soon.

\Another 13 percent have talked with their personal bank already, nine percent with the SBA about their loan programs, and one percent with an online lender.

The vast majority of small businesses are now impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak and owners are taking the threat to their business seriously.

This survey was conducted with a random sample of NFIB’s membership database of about 300,000 small business owners. The survey was conducted by email on March 20, 2020. NFIB collected 700 usable responses, all small employers with 1-360 employees.

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