Many small-business owners are worried that credit relief won't come in time to save their businesses, according to a report released this week by George S. May International.

Of 750 owners surveyed in mid-November, 60 percent said the survival of their business depends on immediate access to credit, the Park Ridge, Ill.-based management consulting reported.

"Business owners are not as worried about a tax increase as much as they fear a lack of relief," Israel Kushnir, the firm's president, said in a statement.

Credit relief ranked highest among business owners' expectations of president-elect Barrack Obama's new administration, ahead of employee health-care initiatives and tax breaks, the survey found.

Still, over half of the survey respondents said they expect health-care costs to rise next year.

"Small business owners are the largest employer group in the United States and the cost of healthcare coverage continues to grow as a critical concern for many of them," Kushnir said.

He said small businesses needed to act now to reduce recurring expenses and fixed costs, rather than wait for government help.