Majority of Small US Businesses See Worst Coronavirus Impact Still Ahead: Poll

Majority of Small US Businesses See Worst Coronavirus Impact Still Ahead: Poll
Makenna Hillyard, 13, checks a to-go order at Farley’s East in Oakland, Calif., on April 16, 2020. (Nathan Frandino/Reuters)

WASHINGTON—Most small business owners in the United States believe the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is still ahead of them, with half saying their operations would permanently close within a year unless the business environment improves, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said on Tuesday.

A new U.S. Chamber-MetLife poll of small businesses taken from Oct. 30-Nov. 10 showed that 74 percent of the owners said they need further government assistance to weather the pandemic. That percentage rises to 81 percent for minority-owned businesses.

The quarterly poll found that the 62 percent of small business owners fear that the worst is still to come with COVID-19’s economic impact. Only 40 percent said they believe their small businesses can operate indefinitely during the current business environment.

“We must ensure small businesses across the country receive the assistance they need from the federal government,” said Neil Bradley, the Chamber’s chief policy officer. “Not passing the bipartisan compromise for temporary and targeted relief risks the permanent loss of tens of thousands of small businesses, financial hardship for millions of Americans, and unnecessary delays in combating the pandemic.”

Democrats and Republicans in Congress are still wrangling this week over a new coronavirus relief package that would provide additional unemployment compensation and aid to small businesses and other sectors of the economy hit hard by the pandemic.

Bradley said the quarterly survey found that 14 percent of small businesses are currently planning to cut staff, up from 9 percent in July and September. Staff reduction plans are back up to the 13 percent level that the survey saw in April during the pandemic’s first peak, he said.

The United States extended its rollout of the first authorized COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, inoculating healthcare workers on the frontlines of a pandemic that has killed more than 300,000 people across the country.

By David Lawder