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Half of Small Business Owners Think the Economy’s Heading for a Recession

The overwhelming majority of small businesses are deeply concerned about the potential impacts of the coronavirus, new data shows.

According to the results of a poll released Monday by the National Small Business Association (NSBA), three out of four small business owners are very concerned about the economic impact of the disease’s spread—and nearly nearly half have already experienced reduced customer demand for their products and services.

What’s more, more than half of small business owners now say they’re anticipating a recession over the coming year, compared with just 14 percent in January.

“We haven’t seen such a negative economic outlook among small businesses since the Great Recession in 2008 and 2009,” NSBA president and CEO Todd McCracken said.

Thus far, one-third (33 percent) of small business respondents said they have experienced delays and closures throughout their supply chains, and one-fifth (20 percent) said they are seeing an increased frequency of employee absences.

Despite these unforeseen circumstances, businesses are working swiftly to mitigate impacts and ensure worker safety.

More than half of small business owners (53 percent) said they had issued health guidelines for their workplaces, while a near-equal amount (52 percent) said they had canceled events or conferences in the wake of the virus’ spread.

More than one-quarter (26 percent) said they had already begun teleworking, while 19 percent said they had encouraged employees to do the same.

Nearly half (47 percent) of respondents said they believed the biggest impact to their businesses would be in their financial standing. About one-third (32 percent) of businesses said they believe the economy is doing much worse than it was two months ago.

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Still, it appears that many small business owners are banking on consumer appetites and their own resilience to pull them through the pandemic. Close to half (46 percent) of survey takers said they were somewhat confident in the future of their businesses.

Twenty-nine percent said they were not very confident, while 9 percent said they were not confident at all. Just 16 percent expressed they were very confident in the future of their businesses.

“This disease is creating an economic disaster for many small companies, and threatening the entire small-business community,” McCracken said. “We will likely be feeling the impact for months if not years.”

Congress and the White House should see the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, designed to provide relief for workers and businesses affected by the virus, as only a first step, NSBA’s analysts said.

“They will need to take further actions to strengthen the economy and specifically improve and protect small-business cash-flow,” they said in a statement. “The short-term cash-crunch that many small businesses will face could force otherwise successful companies to close, further deepening an economic downturn.”