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Lessen COVID-19 impact on small businesses

Social distancing is taking its toll on North Carolina’s small businesses. We don’t have state-specific numbers, but a new survey by the National Federation of Independent Business says 76% of the nation’s small business owners say they’ve been affected in some way by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Over half say sales are down, while 23% say the coronavirus has affected their supply chain. One in five owners surveyed by NFIB said the outbreak hasn’t affected them, but most think it will eventually.

As NFIB’s state director, this troubles me, because small business is the heart and soul of North Carolina’s economy. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses account for 99.6% of all employers in the state, and they employ about 44% of the state’s workforce.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The economic stimulus package would help ease the economic strain caused by the coronavirus by providing cash flow and liquidity to small businesses here and nationwide.

But that's only the start of the process. The CARES Act is now pending in the House, and North Carolina's small businesses need relief now.

That's why we're asking everyone to continue supporting small businesses during the coronavirus outbreak. Small businesses are owned by and employ our family, friends, and neighbors. Small businesses create jobs and support our schools and civic groups.

When something happens that hurts small businesses, it hurts the rest of us, too. That’s why I believe we should make a point of supporting locally-owned shops and restaurants even as we socially distance ourselves.

Some shops and restaurants are closed, but others are open and doing everything they can to address the needs of their customers, safely. That means we can:

-- Get take-out or delivery. Restaurant dining rooms may be closed, but a lot of local restaurants’ kitchens are still open for customers to want to pick up or have food delivered.
-- Shop online. Stores may be closed, but local merchants may have their own websites where customers can place orders.
-- Buy gift cards or gift certificates to local businesses. Buy it today and spend it once the COVID-19 outbreak passes.

North Carolina’s small business owners are determined to get through this, but it won’t be easy. Sales may be down because of social distancing, and some locations may be closed, but owners still have bills to pay – rent utilities, taxes. Some owners have already sought financial help get them through the crisis, and more are expected to so in the future.

We know the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak will be significant.

Something as simple as ordering take-out, shopping online, or buying gift cards can help lessen the economic impact the virus is taking on small, locally-owned businesses.

Because when we help small businesses, we help everybody.

Gregg Thompson is the North Carolina state director of the National Federation of Independent Business.

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