Small business closed file

(The Center Square) – Indiana's small business owners find themselves in the same predicament as many others across the nation. The coronavirus pandemic upended normal operations and many are struggling to come back full force or even survive the changes.

"The effects of the coronavirus on Hoosier small businesses have been nothing short of devastating," Barbara Quandt, Indiana state director of National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), told The Center Square. "No business owner alive today has ever experienced anything close to the economic fallout of this crisis."

Kevin Brinegar, president of Indiana Chamber of Commerce, told The Center Square that of the member businesses surveyed, they have reported issues with revenue loss, cash flow, temporary suspension of operations and having to lay off employees. Some of the challenges that businesses expect to face as they come out of crisis operations include personnel, customer retention, finances, supply chain interruptions and excessive government regulations.

About two-thirds of businesses are expecting to have very different business models and procedures when operations return to normal.

"Most businesses, not all, have been impacted significantly by the pandemic," Brinegar said. "Our surveys support what we suspected anecdotally."

NFIB’s most recent COVID-19 survey found that one in five small business owners believe they will have to close if current economic conditions do not improve over the next six months.

"If one in five recently surveyed say they may not make it, my sense is the fallout might be much worse than that," Quandt said.

The Paycheck Protection Program was a godsend for most small businesses, keeping businesses alive until they were allowed to begin opening back up. Though a meaningful initial assist, Quandt said that money has run out for at least 84 percent of those who received the relief.

"The economy has not rebounded as quickly as most would like because the virus has not gone away," Quandt said. "Without some additional funding, many small businesses simply will not survive."

Both Quandt and Brinegar agree that another federal relief package would be helpful.

"We're hoping that a Phase Four bill at the federal level will include some assistance for states," Brinegar said. "Many other states have already gone negative on their trust fund balance and had to borrow money. We're headed that way."

Small businesses create most of the net new jobs and they are needed to lead the way out of the recession, Quandt said. In addition to federal financial relief, businesses will need tax relief, protection from frivolous lawsuits, unemployment insurance help and regulatory relief.

"Small businesses can't be bogged down with what we consider inappropriate lawsuits," Brinegar said. "It's critically important that [they] follow the CDC guidelines. Businesses that are acting prudently, requiring their staff to wear masks, requiring social distancing, etc, should not be subject to the lawsuits."

"Entrepreneurs are the most optimistic people on the planet so I suspect they may be overly optimistic," Quandt said. "After all, they are the ones that mortgage their homes, max out their credit cards to create and build their life’s dream. I am confident they will do whatever they can to save their small businesses. Many are barely hanging on in the hope that the economy will change, a vaccine will be found and mass-produced, and life might return to “normal.” I share that dream."