When will the cash and customers return?: Survey reveals Santa Rosa business fears about coronavirus restrictions
Will Santa Rosa businesses have enough capital to reopen after the coronavirus lockdown?
Will customers return at pre-pandemic levels?
Those topped the list of concerns raised in Santa Rosa Metro Chamber’s second COVID-19 impact survey of regional businesses about returning to work.
The survey, which is continuing, was launched May 4 and released May 10.
Cash flow was the highest priority (56%) of the 100 respondents, followed by marketing and promotional assistance (43%), supply chain aid (6%), and assistance for laid off employees on how to obtain benefits (5%).
Asked if they had the resources to reopen today, about half said yes. But many were cautious about the future, adding caveats like if there are addition relief package or unless shutdowns and restrictions continue or if customers will want to come back and shop. Many said they worried how their business will accommodate social-distancing rules, like keeping a distance of 6 feet between people.
A large number of the businesses surveyed (79%) had applied for a Small Business Administration loan under the Paycheck Protection Program. Of this total, 83% said their applications were approved, and 66% said the loan they received matched the amount requested. As of the survey date, 56% had already received the payroll loans.
Going forward, more than 70% were concerned about duration of this program, and 80% believe they will have their payroll funds forgiven, which requires that they agree to rehire or retain 75% of employees who were furloughed.
The payroll loans came in two waves after the program was launched April 3. Half of the respondents asking for that relief found that their applications were not processed before the first round of funding ran out.
Of those businesses that applied for SBA economic injury disaster loans (EIDLs), an almost equal percentage (43.24%) had their applications approved, but only 21% said the loan received matched the amount requested.
As of the survey date, 41% had received EIDL funds. Barriers to obtaining EIDL included having difficulty in navigating the SBA’s online application portal (22%) or being unable to apply before the first round of EIDL funding ran out. Many have still not received official approval or funding.
Fewer businesses surveyed (28%) had applied for help from the state under the Employment Development Department's Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits, designed for independent contractors, sole proprietor or self-employed individual. For those that applied, 62% of their applications were approved, and 57% said they have received or will receive retroactive benefits. Some 44% are concerned about the duration of this program.
Barriers encountered with that program include difficulty in navigating the department’s online portal (34%), initial application denial but later acceptance (19%) and not qualifying at all (16%).
Respondents also applied for COVID-19 financial relief from these three other sources: SR Metro Chamber Small Business Emergency Grant (62%); Hello Alice Business for All Emergency Grant (22%), U.S. Chamber of Commerce Save Small Business Grant (22%).
State of California tax deferrals are another relief option. Sixty-seven percent of respondents took advantage of the 90-day extension for all businesses filing a return for less than $1 million in taxes, and 22% asked for the 60-day extension to file state payroll reports and/or to deposit state payroll taxes.
When asked if those with closed businesses plan to reopen, 47% said, “Yes, my business has the resources it needs to restart,” while 23% also said yes, “If my business secures relief or additional resources.”