How Are Small Businesses Adjusting to COVID-19? Early Evidence from a Survey
In addition to its impact on public health, COVID-19 has had a major impact on the economy. To shed light on how COVID-19 is affecting small businesses – and on the likely impact of the recent stimulus bill, we conducted a survey of more than 5,800 small businesses. Several main themes emerge from the results. First, mass layoffs and closures have already occurred. In our sample, 43 percent of businesses are temporarily closed, and businesses have – on average – reduced their employee counts by 40 percent relative to January. Second, consistent with previous literature, we find that many small businesses are financially fragile. For example, the median business has more than $10,000 in monthly expenses and less than one month of cash on hand. Third, businesses have widely varying beliefs about the likely duration of COVID related disruptions. Fourth, the majority of businesses planned to seek funding through the CARES act. However, many anticipated problems with accessing the aid, such as bureaucratic hassles and difficulties establishing eligibility.
We thank Karen Mills for connecting us to the leaders at Alignable and to Eric Groves, Venkat Krishnamurthy, and Geoff Cramer for help in facilitating survey distribution. Dylan Balla-Elliott, Manal Saleh, and Pratyush Tiwari provided excellent research assistance. We received no external funding for this research. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Edward L. Glaeser
I have received speaking fees from organizations that organize members that invest in real estate markets, including the National Association of Real Estate Investment Managers and the Pension Real Estate Association.