Coronavirus-related disruptions have been devastating to small businesses across the U.S. A new poll released Friday by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and financial services firm MetLife sheds some light on the extent of the damage--and its findings are stark.
According to the poll, which surveyed 500 small-business owners and operators from March 25 to 28, 54 percent of U.S. small businesses have either closed or expect to close temporarily within the next two weeks. Permanent closures are on the horizon, too: 43 percent say they're three to six months away from shuttering for good, 24 percent say they're two months or less away, and 11 percent say it'll be less than one month.
The survey also covered how business owners are responding to coronavirus-related disruptions. The most common reaction, shared by 30 percent of respondents: shortening their hours of operation. By comparison, only 17 percent have adjusted the salaries or individual hours of their employees.
That squares with Inc.'s reporting on small-business owners over the past month: Many view layoffs or even salary cuts as only a last-ditch resort, relying instead on cash reserves, lines of credit, and creative budget-cutting methods. The recently enacted CARES Act, which includes $349 billion in loan programs for U.S. small businesses, could help with that goal: Loans dispersed through the act's Paycheck Protection Program can be fully or partially forgiven, depending on the number of employees who remain employed at the company through the end of June.
One small-business owner, Harold Robison of San Diego-based private-label sock manufacturer Pacific Manufacturing, spent most of March researching ways to cut external spending to avoid potential layoffs. Now, he's applying for a roughly $500,000 paycheck protection loan to help keep his 18-employee team together. "That would definitely help. It prevents any conversations of layoffs," he says, adding: "It has to work out, so it's going to work out."