62% of small-business owners fear pandemic's worst is yet to come

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Most small-business owners in the United States believe the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is still ahead of them, with half saying their operations would permanently close within a year unless the business environment improves, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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A new U.S. Chamber-MetLife poll of small businesses taken from Oct. 30-Nov. 10 and released on Tuesday showed that 74% of the owners said they need further government assistance to weather the pandemic. That percentage rises to 81% for minority-owned businesses.

Ryan McCann holds up a banner during a protest by hair salon owners and workers against the latest lockdown orders outside the offices of Marin County Health Officer Dr. Matt Willis Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020, in San Rafael, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risber

The quarterly poll found that the 62% of small-business owners fear that the worst is still to come with COVID-19’s economic impact. Only 40% said they believe their small businesses can operate indefinitely during the current business environment.

“We must ensure small businesses across the country receive the assistance they need from the federal government,” said Neil Bradley, the Chamber’s chief policy officer. “Not passing the bipartisan compromise for temporary and targeted relief risks the permanent loss of tens of thousands of small businesses, financial hardship for millions of Americans, and unnecessary delays in combating the pandemic.”

Democrats and Republicans in Congress are still wrangling this week over a new coronavirus relief package that would provide additional unemployment compensation and aid to small businesses and other sectors of the economy hit hard by the pandemic.

Bradley said the quarterly survey found that 14% of small businesses are currently planning to cut staff, up from 9% in July and September. Staff reduction plans are back up to the 13% level that the survey saw in April during the pandemic’s first peak, he said.

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The United States extended its rollout of the first authorized COVID-19 vaccine here Tuesday, inoculating health care workers on the front lines of a pandemic that has killed more than 300,000 people across the country.

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