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Most US small businesses took sales hit due to pandemic, Fed survey finds

Most US small businesses took sales hit due to pandemic, Fed survey finds

People walk past a business that is closing following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York on Aug 17, 2020. (Photo: REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/)

NEW YORK: The vast majority of US small businesses took a hit to their revenue last year because of the coronavirus pandemic, with minority-owned businesses struggling the most and worrying more about accessing credit, according to a Federal Reserve survey released on Wednesday (Feb 3).

The survey, which was conducted in September and October - after the first two rounds of the Paycheck Protection Program had closed to new applicants and before Congress had finalised a nearly US$900 billion aid package - showed many small businesses worried they would not survive without government help.

Of the nearly 10,000 small businesses surveyed by the Fed, 95 per cent said their business was impacted by the pandemic. Some 78 per cent reported a decline in revenue and 46 per cent said they had to shrink their staff.

Nearly 90 per cent of small businesses said sales had not returned to pre-pandemic levels by the time of the survey. Of those companies, about a third said it would be unlikely that the business would survive until sales recovered without more government help. Some 53 per cent of businesses expected their total sales revenue to drop by more than 25per cent in 2020.

Outcomes varied widely by race and ethnicity. Some 54 per cent of firms overall described their financial condition as "fair" or "poor." But that share rose to 79 per cent for Asian-owned businesses, to 77 per cent for Black-owned firms and to 66 per cent for Hispanic-owned businesses.

Minority-owned businesses overall were more concerned about accessing credit over the next year. Credit availability was the top concern for Black-owned firms, cited by 30 per cent of businesses in that group. Some 20 per cent of Hispanic-owned businesses and 14 per cent of Asian-owned businesses said they were worried about credit availability, compared to 12 per cent of white-owned businesses.

The US central bank heard from 9,693 businesses across the country with fewer than 500 employees. Its Small Business Credit Survey summarised findings from businesses that were operating or temporarily closed, but did not include companies that had permanently shut down.

The majority of businesses surveyed, or more than 90 per cent, looked for some sort of emergency funding during the pandemic, with the most common being the PPP, which provided loans that could be converted to grants under certain conditions. Some 82 per cent of small employers applied for funds from the PPP and 77 per cent of applicants received all of the funding they sought.

Companies that received PPP funds were more likely to retain or rehire their employees, but the aid was not enough to avoid all staff cuts. For instance, 46 per cent of firms that received all the PPP funds they requested reduced their workforces. But that share increased to 71 per cent for firms that received no PPP funding.

Source: Reuters

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