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Small businesses expect long recovery from pandemic

The results are from a new Census Bureau survey that examines life amid the health emergency

A woman walks by the closed storefront of a stationery store last month in Washington, D.C.'s Dupont Circle neighborhood.
A woman walks by the closed storefront of a stationery store last month in Washington, D.C.'s Dupont Circle neighborhood. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

More than 30 percent of U.S. small businesses expect recovery from the coronavirus crisis to take six months or longer, according to results released Thursday from a new pandemic-related Census Bureau survey.

Nationwide, about 40 percent of businesses had to close at least one day between April 26 and May 2, and more than one quarter said they reduced the number of paid employees that week, according to results from the Census Bureau’s first Small Business Pulse Survey of about 100,000 businesses. The agency launched the survey last month, intending to provide weekly results for all 50 states as well as major metropolitan areas.

[Census Bureau to launch coronavirus survey]

The results come a day before the House of Representatives is set to vote on a $3 trillion aid package meant to help buoy an economy ravaged by the pandemic. The Democrats’ bill (HR 6800) would tweak the Paycheck Protection Program, as well as put a freeze on repayment of many types of loans, including those for small businesses.

The Census Bureau release said the results are “intended to provide crucial weekly data on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the nation’s businesses.” They also can provide policymakers with a real-time glimpse into how the pandemic has hit the economy, the agency said.

The pandemic has hit some types of businesses harder than others, according to the survey. More than half of the businesses in New York, Pennsylvania and Michigan had to close in the survey period, and that number spiked to 60 percent or more in the education, healthcare and entertainment sectors.

Nearly half of the responding businesses said they received some form of government financial assistance, such as the Paycheck Protection Program, Small Business Administration loan forgiveness or other help.

About three-quarters of businesses surveyed said they saw revenue drop in the last week. That jumped to more than 80 percent for those in the healthcare, education and entertainment sectors. More than half of respondents in only one industry, utilities, said they did not feel a revenue impact from the pandemic.

The survey also asked about businesses’ cash-on-hand, missed payments and overall effect from the pandemic. 

The Census Bureau also recently launched a Household Pulse Survey and expects to release weekly results starting next week.

Over the next three months, the Census Bureau will continue to ask small businesses and households about economic upheaval, stay-at-home measures and other ways the pandemic has influenced their lives. 

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