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The Impact of COVID-19 on Small Businesses

By Main Street America

Apr 20, 2020

A new report published by Main Street America, founded by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, reveals that nearly 7.5 million small businesses across the country are in danger of closing over the next five months as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. Of the 603 Pennsylvania small businesses surveyed, 63 percent indicated that their businesses are at risk of closing permanently in the next five months. Nearly 80 percent of Pennsylvania respondents have seen revenue decrease by more than 50 percent.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Small Businesses is based on the first and most extensive survey to date assessing the impact of the pandemic on small businesses, especially those that employ 20 or fewer people.  Nearly 6,000 small business owners responded to the survey, of whom 91% own businesses with staff of fewer than 20 people. Interactive maps with state and local-level data can be found here.

“We remain deeply concerned that many of our nation’s smallest businesses are the most vulnerable to revenue disruption caused by the pandemic, and these businesses are the least able to obtain funds absent a well-developed relationship with an existing lender and/or technical assistance in securing funds,” says Patrice Frey, President and CEO of Main Street America. “Congress must ensure there are sufficient funds to support all small businesses in need, particularly those with under 20 employees.”

The report also calls on Congress to fund the U.S. Small Business Administration and partner organizations like local Main Street programs and Chambers of Commerce to expand technical assistance to small businesses. These local economic development organizations act as critical connectors and educators for our nation’s smallest employers and can help ensure stimulus dollars reach these businesses.  Similarly, state and local governments must continue to prioritize and fund these essential downtown and city-wide small business support organizations. These programs not only play a vital role in stabilizing local economies throughout the crisis but will expedite the recovery process once the pandemic subsides.

“Now, more than ever the roles our local Main Street and Elm Street programs play in our communities are being recognized. They are being seen as the convener and coordinator that unite the private, public and non-profit sectors in our communities. Many of these programs are acting with ingenuity and resourcefulness – of innovative partnerships and creative solutions,” says Julie Fitzpatrick, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Downtown Center. “This is our time to reinvent what the future holds in our communities, and our Main Street and Elm Street programs are leading the effort.”

While much focus has turned to supporting e-commerce solutions to help boost revenue while the nation remains in quarantine, troublingly almost two-thirds of the businesses surveyed nationally said they did not have an active online sales component to their business. Nearly 60 percent of respondents from Pennsylvania do not have an active online sales component to their business. The report suggests web development and e-commerce training for small businesses might also be a needed area of investment for the federal government to consider as the need for further cash infusion is evaluated.

The report is based on survey responses from small business owners in 48 states and the District of Columbia. Respondents came from more than 1,000 locales across the United States, including big cities like New York and Chicago and small towns like Blairsville, Georgia, and, Bellefonte and Hanover in Pennsylvania. Nearly 40 percent of the small businesses represented in this survey operate in towns with fewer than 10,000 residents.

Follow this link to read the full report.

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