Many of the small businesses who survived the COVID-19 pandemic are still struggling to get back to their prior levels of success. We are frequently referred to as the backbone of the United States economy. Additionally, we contribute substantially to the communities in which we operate. Yet we continue to encounter systemic obstacles and often feel undervalued by the federal government, which waived loan repayment for many larger, wealthier businesses with access to more resources.
The Real Number of Small Business Employees
The 80% of small businesses without employees is a demographic often overlooked in policy discussions. Notably, many of us are led by individuals from historically marginalized groups, including women and people of color. If you include us as employees of our organizations, we represent a staggering workforce of nearly 100 million employees. C-corporations employ approximately 55 million people. We deserve to be considered valuable contributors to the economy.
How Pandemic Assistance Furthered Inequity
One of the primary concerns voiced in recent conversations with small business owners is the disparity in relief measures received during the pandemic. While larger businesses with substantial resources availed themselves of grants through programs like the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), true small businesses have found themselves burdened with Economic Impact Disaster Loans (EIDL). For many, EIDL will linger well into their retirement years. Compounding this inequity, some businesses fortunate enough to secure PPP grants now owe money to smaller enterprises saddled with EIDL loans, and they are not paying up.
Why True Small Businesses Are Still Struggling
Beyond the immediate financial strain, small businesses face challenges like:
- Predatory lending practices
- Employee recruitment, retention, and termination
- Increased minimum wage and overtime requirements
- Mandatory employee benefits
- Numerous and complex regulations that are constantly changing
The Pipe Dream of Retirement
The lingering effects of pandemic-induced debt have cast a long shadow over the prospects of retirement for many small business owners. To keep going, many:
- Depleted business and personal savings
- Liquidated life insurance policies
- Sold personal assets, including their homes
Now, the businesses they relied on to sell and fund their retirements have been devalued and meaningful recovery in business activity seems elusive. Meanwhile, wealthy celebrities with multiple homes received gratuitous financial assistance. This further underscores the systemic challenges faced by true small businesses.
How You Can Help Close the Gaps
Despite the declaration of the pandemic’s end, the need for sustained support for small businesses remains as pressing as ever. The resilience and tenacity exhibited by true small businesses throughout the crisis underscore their indispensable role in driving economic recovery and fostering community resilience. You can show support for true small businesses by:
- Acknowledging their contributions with positive reviews on Google, Facebook, or their websites
- Choose to shop with small businesses whenever possible
- Provide opportunities and resources for their business growth