The historic $2.2 trillion CARES Act, passed last week by Congress and designed to buoy the economy in the wake of the coronavirus, includes nearly $380 billion in relief for small businesses. This infusion of resources is critical, but our experience supporting small businesses in the recovery from the Columbia Gas emergency teaches us that for many of our small businesses to leverage these resources, they will require additional interventions in the short- and long-term too.
We will all likely have a role to play in supporting business recovery, and it is a role we must take seriously.
Why? Because small businesses are the bedrock of our cities and towns. They are owned by our friends and neighbors, people who care deeply about their communities.
Not only do they return more than three times as much money to the local economy as chain retailers, they employ local residents. They engage other area businesses in their supply chains. And our small business community is often where we turn when we need community support.
But right now, they are hanging by a thread. Hard decisions about payroll, inventory, rent and bills loom large.
As a stopgap, many small businesses across the region – like Jabberwocky Bookshop in Newburyport and Coco’s Café in Lawrence – are reaching out to their communities for help through GoFundMe campaigns.
Each passing day presents difficult new challenges. Our smallest businesses have the least amount of reserves in the bank, often lack the information about available resources and have limited capacity to access these resources.
A recent survey we conducted of nearly 200 Merrimack Valley businesses revealed that more than 96% have been negatively affected by the pandemic; 78% of those surveyed said that they expect to be suffering an extreme impact six months from now. They need our help.