All eyes are on President Joe Biden's State of the Union address tonight--and there's plenty of ground that small businesses want to see the president cover.
The past two years have been a whirlwind for businesses--along with the rest of the world--and the past few weeks alone only seem to compound that sentiment. Biden's first State of the Union address will be a chance to discuss his legislative priorities and offer insight into other domestic matters. No doubt he'll also wade heavily into international matters, too, given the current state of unrest in Ukraine.
While you'll have to wait until this evening to hear exactly what's on Biden's mind, here are four areas that small businesses want to hear about most:
Russia and Ukraine
The invasion of Ukraine is top-of-mind for entrepreneurs. More businesses are beginning to cut ties with Russia over its incursion into Ukraine, while others are still grappling with their own response. Attendant concerns are now ratcheting up about economic and global stability, too. Entrepreneurs say they hope cooler heads will prevail. "The U.S. and others need to find a way to help stabilize that region," says Bobby Achettu, founder and CEO of Accelerated Growth, a Chicago accounting, finance, and tech consulting firm. "There are so many challenges that business owners already face," he adds, pointing to supply chain issues as one example.
Inflation was already skyrocketing before the conflict. Spiking energy costs are adding fuel to the fire, says Holly Wade, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business Research Center, the research wing of the Nashville-based association of small-business owners.
"Having to absorb those costs and stay competitive ... is a real problem," says Wade. "It's complicating [business owners'] ability to pass those costs along and remain competitive with other businesses and certainly their larger counterparts."
During tonight's address, Biden is expected to discuss his plans on lowering costs for American consumers who have run into climbing prices for food, energy, and other daily items.
To mask, or not to mask, that is the question. But there are many more questions that business leaders are asking as states begin to peel back requirements. Even though cases spurred by the recent Omicron wave are now simmering down, the coronavirus remains a wild card. Companies want to get back to business and they want to do it safely, but differing recommendations are sowing more confusion.
Business leaders want to understand what their future looks like and obtain clear policies around Covid, says Bill Chinn, CEO of the DEC Network, a Dallas-based small-business networking and education organization. "Entrepreneurs want to know what their staff, customers, and employees are going to have to do," Chinn explains. "Clear direction is exactly what they're looking for."
After the fallout of the Build Back Better bill, which stalled in the Senate, some businesses continue to call for more federal relief. Billions of aid dollars may have funneled through to those in need since passage of the Cares Act in March 2020, but many companies have yet to fully recover. Understanding what the government can do to help businesses that still face economic challenges is one component that Accelerated Growth's Achettu is looking out for. Achettu is especially curious to see any discussions related to deferred repayments on disaster loans, also known as Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs). "In many instances, the EIDL loans got business owners through the pandemic," he says "As they look to get back onto their feet, if there was an opportunity to delay some of those payments, I think it would be extremely helpful."