National: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Guide

“It’s a long road to recovery,” according to a July survey of small businesses around the country by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Months into the COVID-19 crisis, they are still facing serious challenges meeting their monthly expenses, including payroll, utilities, and rent. “Though small businesses are pressing onward, concern over a second wave remains high.”

Here are some of the survey findings:

  • Almost 90% report their businesses are open in some capacity. 23% of small businesses report having temporarily closed at some point, unchanged from the end of May. In total, 86% of small businesses report that they are fully or partially open.
  • Businesses remain concerned about the impact of a second wave of coronavirus. 65% of businesses are concerned about having to close their business, or stay closed, if there is a second wave of COVID-19.
  • PPP loan recipients concerned about loan forgiveness. One in five (19%) respondents report applying for, and receiving, a PPP loan. Among loan recipients, nearly two-thirds (64%) are concerned about meeting the criteria necessary to receive loan forgiveness.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has multiple resources to help small business owners around the country navigate the financial uncertainties, including a series of virtual conferences on staying open in these socially-distancing times called Recovery. Rebuild. Reconnect. The next event is Wednesday, August 26.

One nonprofit is trying to help Los Angeles County small business owners weather the economic storm. Diego Cartagena is the president and CEO of Bet Tzedek and he joins me this week on the Work in Progress podcast.

While Bet Tzedek operates in the L.A.-area only, the questions they are getting from small business owners there are the same ones that owners all around the country are asking.

“Under COVID-19, it has been incredible—the amount of pressure that small businesses are under. The most common issue is commercial real estate. We have so many small business owners where the largest line item in their budget is their monthly rent, and they are simply unable to keep up with the rent,” Cartagena explains.

Bet Tzedek offers free legal guidance to qualifying small business owners trying to navigate the ins and outs of keeping their companies up and running while they deal with their financial obligations.

“We’re lucky in California that we had a rent moratorium that applies to commercial leases along with residential leases, but the confusion and the questions still about, right? So, there are questions as to, do I have to pay my rent? Can I get a rent abatement or a rent deferral?”

Cartagena says some small owners have decided they can’t have a brick-and-mortar presence and they want to step away from leasing in the hopes that once the COVID-19 is all said and done with, they can reopen their business in a new location.

“In some instances, we’re negotiating an exit strategy on behalf of the small business owner. The other issue, sadly that we’re seeing, we are seeing some cases of bankruptcy filings.”

Cartagena says there are some positive issues that they are dealing with.

“We are also seeing a lot of entrepreneurship. We are seeing businesses that are, for example, shifting from a brick and mortar presence to an online presence. So, we’re counseling them on sales tax issues when you’re selling goods across state lines. We’re counseling them on the ins and outs from a legal perspective of marketing online, and various other issues related to that, that really are an expression of their entrepreneurship.”

I encourage you to listen to hear more of how Bet Tzedek has been working with small business owners during the pandemic, and to learn about all the other good work the nonprofit has been doing in its 40 year history.

You can listen to the podcast here, or download it wherever you get your podcasts.

Episode 147: Diego Cartagena, President and CEO, Bet Tzedek
Host: Ramona Schindelheim, Editor-in-Chief, WorkingNation
Producer: Larry Buhl
Executive Producers: Joan Lynch, Melissa Panzer, and Ramona Schindelheim
Music: Composed by Lee Rosevere and licensed under CC by 4.0.

You can check out all the other podcasts at this link: Work in Progress podcasts

You can read more about the resources Bet Tzedek has compiled for small business owners here.

You can read the entire July U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Survey here and find its Small Business Resource page here