- Small business owners are hopeful for a swift economic recovery as they begin reopening after closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a report released June 23 by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). The data comes from a survey of 416 small business executives from organizations with 500 or fewer employees.
- To reopen, nearly a third of those surveyed said they're re-evaluating business protocols. And the majority (82%) said they are considering or adopting broader telework policies, while almost half (43%) said they will allow flexible hours or compressed workweeks.
- Although most respondents said they recorded an overall decrease in revenue since the beginning of the pandemic, 52% expect to recover to pre-COVID profitability in six months or less. This is a speedy recovery in comparison to forecasts by economists predicting some metro areas won't return to pre-COVID-19 employment levels until 2024, according to SHRM. Almost half said they anticipate losing customers going forward and 53% are concerned about the increased risk of lawsuits due to reopening amid the pandemic, according to SHRM's report.
In May, many small business owners began focusing on reopening and hiring, according to multiple sources.
SHRM's report found that by the end of the month, 23% of small businesses had returned to work or reopened worksites; and small business employment grew by 0.25% in May, a slight increase after a steep drop in April, according to data from Paychex, an HR outsourcing vendor, and IHS Markit published June 2.
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), funding included in The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, was signed into law March 27 to aid small businesses and nonprofit organizations. But business owners had some initial uncertainty around the terms of PPP loans. A revision, the PPP Flexibility Act which came in June, reduced the proportion of a PPP loan that a small business must put toward payroll from 75% to 60%.
Almost all (90%) of business owners surveyed by Paychex said a provision of the PPP Flexibility Act, which extended the forgiveness period from eight to 24 weeks, will be impactful to their business. Paychex's report published June 22 also found that 82% said the same about the extension of the loan repayment term from two to five years.
Still, employers face challenges in reopening, including the risk of lawsuits, as SHRM pointed out. Such litigation has already begun, with workers pressing employers on safety and raising questions about accommodations.