One-Third of Small Businesses Don’t Expect to Survive

An Asian woman small business owner affected by the COVID-19 virus.
RichLegg / Getty Images

Small businesses continue to face significant challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic, including weak demand, heightened expenses and limited credit availability. Nearly one-third of firms say that without additional government aid, they’re unlikely to survive until sales recover to pre-pandemic levels, according to a recent Federal Reserve survey.

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For many of the 9,693 nationwide small firms that responded to the survey, the outlook remains tenuous, as sales for 88% of them have not returned to pre-pandemic levels, according to the Federal Reserve’s Small Business Credit survey.

The majority of firms — 64% — said they would apply for another round of government aid if it were offered. Of those firms, 39% expected they would be unlikely to survive until sales return to normal without further government assistance. In terms of returning to “normal levels,” 14% expect it will happen in the first half of 2021; 41% in the second half of 2021; and 29% in 2022 or later.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has had wide-reaching effects on small business operations, with 95% of them reporting that the pandemic impacted their business.

“For example, 26% closed temporarily, 56% reduced their operations and 48% modified their operations. Of those that faced disruptions to operations, firms most commonly cited changes in demand (58%), government mandates (55%), or the need to adapt to health and safety guidelines (52%) as reasons their businesses were affected,” the survey reads.

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Another key finding of the survey is the stark disparity by the race of business owners: While 57% of firms overall characterized their financial condition as “fair” or “poor,” this figure jumped to 79% for Asian-owned firms, 77% for Black-owned firms and 66% for Latinx-owned firms.

Thirty-seven percent of firms expect that the most important challenge stemming from the pandemic in the next 12 months will be weak demand, followed by government-mandated restrictions or closures (26%) and credit availability (13%).

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In terms of government aid, 91% of the small employer firms surveyed said they applied for emergency funding. A further breakdown of the data notes that 82% applied for Paycheck Protection Program loans and 77% percent of PPP applicants received all the funding they sought.

Finally, the survey notes that those that received all they requested were less likely to reduce payroll and more likely to rehire laid-off employees than firms that did not receive all they requested. PPP recipients were also more likely than nonrecipients to rehire employees they laid off once they received the funds, according to the survey.

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About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.
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