The COVID-19 quarantine has had a massive impact on the U.S. economy including hundreds of small business owners. As a result of closing countless nonessential businesses, millions of Americans have found themselves jobless. Things will only get worse as the quarantine stretches from weeks to months.
After issuing the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), millions of small businesses with fewer than 500 employees have applied for aid through the U.S. Small Business Administration. The $350 billion small business loan program is a just small part of the $2 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package that the U.S. Congress approved.
Additionally, PayPal, Square Capital, and Intuit have all been given the approval to give out PPP loans. Intuit, the owners of TurboTax, launched Intuit Aid Assist, which helps small businesses figure out how much aid they’re entitled to. However, despite attempting to simplify the process, many small business owners are struggling to figure out the application process. Some applicants said it took days to find all the necessary paperwork then they were delayed further by an application process that took hours to complete. CNBC reported that even a computer scientist was baffled by some of the steps that she and her husband had to take to file for help.
According to CNN, some small business owners are trying to stay afloat by simply putting their own business on hold while they search out new jobs to fill the financial void. Some owners have turned to other means of procuring income like delivering groceries or medications, while others are trying to get back into positions they left, like one woman in Ohio who is going back into social work. Still, others are just applying for every job they can. Some people have less than a month’s worth of savings to get by on and small business loans, while helpful for so many, can only go so far to support nonessential business owners.
Other businesses are adapting to serve their customers online but many are losing out on business because traditional signage still leads to 2/3 of customers’ purchases. Wix, Squarespace, and other website hosting services are helping small businesses across the country build websites where they can sell their products. Some businesses are going so far as to change their whole business model in order to help others through this difficult time. ABC News reported on one instance of this: LA-based financial company, Finli, is helping small businesses in their area stay afloat by helping them transfer their services online through online classes.
However, going digital has a lot of downsides, like the fact that the attention span of someone looking at digital platforms is 40 seconds. Online small businesses have to compete with eBay, Amazon, Google, and more to try to gain customers. Tried and true marketing techniques for their businesses simply won’t work digitally and to even get seen on an indirect Google search is extremely difficult as it requires knowledge of SEO mechanics, Google search algorithms, and more.
The economic impacts of the virus don’t stop at small businesses: millions are applying for unemployment while others pull funds from one of 17,000 investment agencies throughout the United States just to make ends meet. The United States will likely be seeing further economic impacts of the COVID-19 virus over the course of the next few months. Whatever small business owners choose to get by right now they should prepare for a rough year. It’s difficult to predict exactly what is going to happen, but one thing is certain: it will be everything but easy.