Hampton Roads small businesses are bouncing back from effects of the coronavirus pandemic even though many owners say they will need more financial assistance in the coming months, according to a new U.S. Census Bureau survey.
Survey respondents said, by several metrics, their businesses were improving in the few months since COVID-19 began spreading locally and Gov. Ralph Northam imposed sweeping restrictions through a stay-at-home order. More employers have stopped cutting worker hours, revenues are improving, and fewer respondents have reported supply chain disruptions.
“They really are adapting to the situation and pulling,” said Kylie Sibert, spokesperson for the Retail Alliance advocacy organization in Norfolk.
Northam’s March 30 stay-at-home order closed restaurant dining rooms, shuttered entertainment businesses and limited non-essential businesses to only 10 patrons per establishment. On June 30, the governor implemented phase 3 that allowed more businesses to open under certain guidelines but Hampton Roads has been under stricter rules for restaurants and gatherings in response to an increase in positive COVID-19 cases.
Small business impacts began to show up in the census survey conducted from April 26 to May 2. Nearly 72% of Hampton Roads small businesses reported a decrease in weekly revenues, around 43% reported a supply chain disruption and 46% of employers cut the hours of their employees.
Those factors have improved dramatically for local businesses, according to the survey conducted from Aug. 16-22. Only one in three business reported a decrease in weekly revenues during that time period. Around 38% of respondents reported domestic supplier delays, and just 16% of employers said they decreased working hours for employees.
Even so, area small businesses reported some ongoing difficulties in the latest survey. About 46% of companies reported some kind of decrease in operating capacity compared with a year ago. Even though 71% of businesses have received assistance from the Paycheck Protection Program, 22% say they will need additional financial assistance in the next six months.
Sibert said she was still hopeful that small businesses would survive, noting that the business owners she had talked to were staying positive and innovating with changes like curbside pickup and a greater online presence.
“I think that that’s going to really help them through this pandemic,” she said.
The Census Bureau conducted the survey by inviting more than 90,000 small businesses to respond each week, reaching almost 1 million during the first survey period, which ended on June 27. The second nine-week survey phase began on August 9 and has released two sets of responses so far.
In Virginia, 585 businesses participated in the April 26-May 2 survey and 528 responded to the Aug. 16-22 survey.
Trevor Metcalfe, 757-222-5345, firstname.lastname@example.org
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