A new poll from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and MetLife released Friday reveals a grim picture for small businesses facing devastating losses from the crisis over the Wuhan coronavirus.
According to the nationwide survey of roughly 500 small business owners including individuals in Alaska and Hawaii, 24 percent, or one in four said they are just two months or less from closing their doors for good as states and local governments keep them shut down over the pandemic. Ten percent, or one in ten small businesses reported they would be closing permanently in less than a month if they were forced to remain closed.
“This is an extraordinarily difficult time for small business owners across the country. Many are facing significant disruptions and as the data show many are on the bring of closure,” said Christel Slaughter who serves as the CEO of SSA Consultants and chairs the U.S. Chamber Small Business Council.
They survey found that a quarter of the nation’s small businesses have already temporarily closed and another 40 percent reported they are likely to follow suit in the next two weeks meaning more than half would be closed on either a permanent or temporary basis in the coming days.
The poll’s findings come a week after Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to give aid to struggling businesses and employees facing financial ruin from the crisis. The Chamber found that three key benefits in the bill will play a critical role in sustaining the small businesses through the economic downturn. Most businesses, 56 percent, said direct cash payments to Americans was the most helpful item followed by 30 percent pointing at loans and financial aid and 21 percent citing the suspension of payroll taxes.
“As the poll results show, small business owners are looking for loans and financial aid to ensure they do not have to shut their doors or go bankrupt because of the coronavirus,” said U.S. Chamber of Commerce Chief Policy Officer Neil Bradley.
In a phone call with reporters discussing the survey on Friday, Bradley said a turbulent economy in the coming weeks would be critical to the overall health of American small businesses but cited there is reason to be optimistic given that their poll found nearly one in four said they expect to hire new employees in the next year. Bradley said that projection was not far off from the Chamber’s quarterly index completed with MetLife last year.
Research for the report on the Wuhan virus and small businesses was conducted by Ipsos from March 25 – 28 through online surveys.