Small business survey finds majority of companies want to open now

A survey of about 350 small business owners in Indiana found that a majority—59%—want state and local governments to lift stay-at-home orders immediately and let companies reopen.

Another 22% said those restrictions should be lifted within the next 30 days, according to the National Federation of Independent Businesses, which surveyed its members.

The NFIB released the numbers the day officials in Marion County announced they planned to extend a stay-at-home order in Indianapolis to May 15.

The state’s stay-at-home order expires on Friday, and Gov. Eric Holcomb is expected to begin the process of letting some businesses and organizations reopen, although the moves might come with restrictions.

NFIB’s survey found that 58% of members who responded support reopening the economy gradually.

The NFIB’s state director, Barbara Quandt, said the numbers “show what small business owners have been saying for weeks: They cannot survive for much longer unless we get Indiana’s economy rolling again.”

“Our small business owners here in Indiana have been devastated by the coronavirus,” she said in a statement.

The respondents represented a cross section of Indiana industries, including construction, manufacturing, retail, agriculture, financial services and more. The vast majority—79%—said their businesses are considered essential, meaning they have fewer restrictions than non-essential companies under orders issued by Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and the Marion County Health Department.

Most of the owners surveyed said it would either be not at all difficult or not too difficult to take some common precautions against spreading COVID-19.

For example, 74% of owners said it would not be difficult to disinfect common areas frequently, 61% of respondents said not be difficult to require customers and employees to remain 6 feet apart, and 53% said it would not be difficult to requiring employees to wear face coverings.

Quandt said reopening is especially important for those companies that have not been able to secure a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan. The program—part of larger relief effort from Congress—ran through its first $350 billion in loans in just 13 days, leaving thousands of companies in the queue.

Congress refilled the program with $310 billion in additional funding, but that money is expected to run out as soon as this week.

“Those who haven’t seen any disaster relief money from the federal government are in danger of shutting down,” Quandt said. “We need to begin to reopen Indiana’s economy—or many small business owners will not survive.”

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