Like most Americans, we have been eagerly following progress our nation is making in battling COVID-19 and remain hopeful that the herculean efforts of so many will help us turn the corner in coming months.
But while we are heartened that the pandemic’s end may be on the horizon and Congress has embraced a plan for additional short-term assistance, make no mistake — the economic impact of this sustained crisis will continue to ravage small businesses in every community across every state, including ours: New York and Texas.
As small-business owners, we speak for tens of thousands of others like us when we say the situation remains dire, and without a long-term recovery agenda from Congress, the American people and its workers will suffer further economic devastation. Take a walk around your own cities and towns to see for yourself the stark reality of the toll COVID is taking on our small businesses.
The good news is we know that the second round of PPP loans helped many businesses stay open. But a recent national survey by Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses Voices underscored the urgent need for more support to help small businesses recover and grow in this highly volatile time. Only 11 percent of PPP loan recipients are very confident they will be able to maintain payroll if no further government relief is provided. And 43 percent do not think their businesses will be back to normal before the fourth quarter of this year or 2022.
That’s the message we, as members of the 10,000 Small Businesses Voices National Leadership Council, were honored to deliver earlier this month during a meeting with members of the U.S. House bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus. This group of committed leaders from across the country deserves a lot of credit for bringing both parties together to pass the pandemic relief legislation last December, and while we thanked them for that much-needed support, we also stressed it was a short-term fix for a long-term problem.
The past 12 months have upended our businesses models and forced us to make difficult decisions — including reducing staff, shelving plans to grow, taking on debt to cover expenses and forgoing our own pay as we watched revenues evaporate.
The 10,000 Small Businesses Voices survey data from February also showed the personal toll of the pandemic on the small-business community. Forty-six percent say they or their employees have faced mental health-related issues stemming from COVID-19, and 50 percent reported dipping into their personal savings to stay operational.
Bottom line: We need Congress and the administration to enact a long-term recovery agenda that puts small businesses front and center. We need access to long-term capital and affordable health care for our workers. We need help providing our employees access to affordable child care. And in addition to other longer-term priorities, we need help to offset the costs of reopening safely.
Members of Congress know better than anyone the crucial role small businesses play in building and strengthening local and regional economies across our nation. We are the backbones of our communities, employing nearly half the private-sector workforce in the United States.
Our two family-owned businesses have been working hard for several generations to serve our respective communities. In the Bronx, Johnson Security Bureau – the oldest Black-owned security firm in New York State – has provided not only trusted service but employment opportunities in the poorest Congressional district in the country. And in Houston, Three Brothers Bakery has weathered many natural disasters – in addition to the pandemic – to keep the family institution, founded by Holocaust survivors 71 years ago, alive.
We are doing everything we can to keep our businesses afloat and our teams employed, but small businesses remain in crisis. Many are just one payroll, one unexpected expense, away from going under. Today, we are calling on Congress to help us help our communities and our workers by investing in our long-term stability and the future of every small business across our nation.
Jessica Johnson Cope is president and CEO of Johnson Security Bureau Inc. in the Bronx, N.Y. Janice Jucker is co-owner of Three Brothers Bakery in Houston.
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