Updated 3/16/20: In light of the 2020 Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we’re sharing critical crisis resources for small businesses.
For help specifically related to the COVID-19 outbreak, visit:
Crises like epidemics, natural disasters, financial recessions, and acts of violence affect more than individuals and families. They affect everyone from local businesses to global economies.
Small businesses generate 44% of U.S. economic activity. And during times of uncertainty, small businesses experience their fair share of economic downturn, risk and depression.
How small businesses are impacted by national and international crises:
- Declines in sales revenue
- Limited cash flow
- Unexpected expenses
- Staffing issues
- Higher than normal healthcare costs
- Lost or damaged assets (like physical storefronts or vehicles)
- And more
Crisis Resources for Small Business
Thankfully, federal, state and local governments offer resources designed to lessen the impact of crises on small businesses. Agencies like Chambers of Commerce, the Small Business Administration (SBA), and local Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) also step up to help.
During uncertain times, understanding the resources available could protect — even save — your small business.
Low- to Zero-interest Loans
The federal government will often offer low- to zero-interest loans to small businesses experiencing declines in sales or cash flow troubles. For example, President Trump announced a major infusion to small business lending as part of a broader coronavirus response in March 2020. The low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration will be made “effective immediately” in states and cities affected by COVID-19. Trump also asked Congress to bolster current funding levels for the SBA lending program to $50 billion.
The federal government also considers offering businesses leniency on taxes during times of crisis. These tax “breaks” come in the form of:
- A cut to the payroll tax
- Extensions beyond the typical tax filing deadline
- Extensions on tax payments
- Expanded tax credits for family leave programs
State officials also have the power to offer cash grants to small businesses in need. These grants can supplement payroll shortfalls, for example, so you don’t lose valuable team members.
Note: The federal government does not offer grants for starting or growing a business. It only provides grants for nonprofit and educational institutions.
In states where the death toll is high during an emergency, those governments are likely to offer debt and late penalty forgiveness for workers and families. They’ll also offer deferred bills.
Paid Leave or Wage Reimbursement
Only around 59% of small business employees have paid, job-protected sick leave (as federal law doesn’t mandate employers offer it). It makes sense — it would be financially burdensome for small employers to pay multiple members of staff who go out on leave at once.
But without paid leave, many employees feel obligated to attend work even when a risk of illness or injury is present. Many government officials push to offer paid leave and lost wage reimbursement for missed work in an attempt to prevent further injury or loss of life.
Waiving Burdensome Fees
Businesses with physical locations or storefronts know their overhead costs consist of more than just rent. And local governments and agencies understand that extra fees can add up during trying times.
For example, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce has prepared to petition the San Francisco city government to temporarily waive fees like sidewalk fees for restaurants.
The SBA and SBDC offer free business counseling and advice to small business owners. They assist with anything from business planning, to loan applications, to marketing and more.
While this resource is always available, it’s especially helpful during times of crisis.
Help Winning Federal Contracts
Some of the most elusive contracts small businesses can win are with the government. The SBA helps entrepreneurs find and win contracts with the federal government. They even offer business development programs to position businesses for success throughout the contract.
Unfortunately, some crises have more than a financial impact. Organizations like the American Red Cross offer emergency readiness and relief programs to businesses, organizations, schools and families.
Where to Find Available Resources
Resources available to your business will vary by location. Here’s where small business owners and entrepreneurs can go to find the help you need.