2nd COVID19 Business Survey Captures Business Response & Experience with Relief

May 8, 2020

The work of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce is guided by the perspectives and needs of more than 1,700 member businesses in Western North Carolina and beyond. To continue measuring real-time needs during the COVID-19 crisis, we worked with leaders from organizations like Just Economics, Mountain BizWorks and the City of Asheville Business Inclusion Office to develop and distribute a second COVID-19 Business Impact Survey.

With responses from nearly 300 business leaders, these survey results offer a look at what businesses need as communities across Western North Carolina move closer to a phased reopening. They also track business leaders’ experiences with various forms of COVID-19-related relief, like the U.S. Small Business Association’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL).

Survey Dashboard – Business Response: includes real-time graphs, selected business comments, and summary of responses

Survey Dashboard – Experiences with Relief Funding: includes real-time graphs, selected business comments, and summary of responses

Coronavirus Business Resources

Asheville Chamber’s 2020 Legislative Priorities

Survey Highlights

  • As we move deeper into the COVID-19 crisis, the rate of business closures continues to rise. 50% of respondents now say their businesses have had to close due to COVID-19, up from about 31% of respondents in our first Business Impact Survey.
  • Many businesses will need relief or additional resources to reopen. While 35% of respondents say they have the resources they need to reopen, 41% say they plan to reopen if their business secures relief or additional resources. Limited opportunities for new business, financial uncertainty, consumer confidence, additional waves of COVID-19 spread and recession are among the most common business continuity concerns.
  • Financial constraints and workforce concerns are among the largest barriers for businesses considering reopening or resuming operations.Respondents cited debts and expenses like leases, mortgages and payroll (62%) as their biggest challenges. They also identified rehiring previous, experienced staff (26%) and hiring and training new staff (17%) as challenges.
  • Business leaders’ confidence in resuming normal operations increases over time. When asked about reopening if public health and public safety experts recommended relaxing stay-at-home guidelines by May 15, 2020, only 32% of respondents said they’d resume normal operations, whereas 66% said they’d resume normal operations if stay-at-home guidelines were relaxed on or after July 1, 2020. Many respondents said public health and public safety remain a primary concern for them.
  • Area business leaders experienced significant barriers to relief through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Only 66% of respondents said they had applied for PPP before its first round of funding ran out, and of that group, only 45% said their applications were approved. Nearly 7% of respondents said their bank didn’t participate in PPP, 7% said they were unable to find a participating lender who would process their application, and an additional 13% said they didn’t qualify for the program.
  • Area business leaders also experienced significant barriers to relief through the U.S. Small Business Association’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. Only 53% of respondents had applied for EIDL, and of that group, only 33% said their applications were approved. Just 24% said they had received their funds. Many respondents indicated that they had applied for EIDL relief but never heard back.

How Government Can Help

  • Improve access to COVID-19 testing and personal protective equipment in communities across the state. 56% of survey respondents said difficulty incorporating social distancing practices into their operations would be a barrier to reopening or resuming operations, and access to supplies like hand sanitizer can help.
  • Encourage changes to length of repayment periods and other terms for relief like the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Many respondents indicated that the program’s duration or spending requirements didn’t fit the needs of their business, with 56% saying they don’t plan to apply for PPP now that funding for the program has been replenished. Program modifications can help businesses feel confident accepting and using this form of relief.
  • Urge insurers to cover Business Interruption Insurance and Gap Insurance claims related to COVID-19. 73% of respondents said they needed cash flow assistance, and being able to depend on business interruption and gap insurance coverage can help.
  • Expand investment in workforce training and upskilling programs. With 43% of respondents identifying staffing as a challenge to reopening their businesses, greater support for training and upskilling can help prepare workers to fill available, in-demand jobs and enable businesses to reopen when it’s safe to do so.

About the Respondents

As of 5/6/2020

  • Responses came from business leaders in various industries. They include: Arts & Entertainment (15%); Retail (11%); Food & Beverage (9%); Professional Services (9%; category includes marketing, printing and design, law firms, architecture, event services, business consulting, videography, etc.); Attractions/Recreation/Tourist Activity (9%); Accommodations (6%); Health Care (5%); and Personal Services (4%; category includes salons, wellness/fitness, massage, pet care, etc.)
  • Most responses came from small businesses. 68% of respondents represented businesses that employed 20 or fewer employees before the onset of the COVID-19 disruption.
  • Respondents represent businesses that operate across Western North Carolina. While about 92% of respondents’ businesses operate in Buncombe County, many respondents also reported operating in Madison County (19%), Henderson County (24%), Transylvania County (17%), McDowell County (15%), Haywood County (20%), Yancey County (10%), and/or Jackson County (13%).
  • About 8% of respondents represent veteran-owned businesses or are certified as Historically Underutilized Businesses.