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Looking ahead: Business owners nationally are cautiously optimistic

Nearly two-thirds of business owners nationwide feel the worst is behind them in terms of the impact of COVID-19 on their operations, new research from Paychex Inc. shows. But four in five business owners are somewhat or very concerned about a possible second wave of infection.

“Over [recent] weeks, as all 50 states have begun some phase of reopening, many business owners have turned their attention to determining how to best operate safely and efficiently in this new landscape,” said Martin Mucci, Paychex president and CEO.

“After an extended period of uncertainty, with more questions remaining, it’s encouraging to see that business owners are optimistic about their recovery from this crisis while remaining cautious about the economy and a potential second wave,” he said.

As part of a COVID-19 survey series, Paychex polled 300 randomly selected business owners with two to 500 employees.. The most recent survey was conducted in May. Some highlights:

46 percent of business owners report they are fully open and operational

42 percent are open on a limited basis

12 percent are closed but plan to reopen

Of the businesses that are open, 30 percent closed at one point during the pandemic

Of the businesses that are closed, half plan to open by July, and one-quarter will open as soon as they are allowed

In terms of PPP loans, some 37 percent of businesses are not clear on how to apply for PPP loan forgiveness, although 68 percent are very or extremely confident that they will meet the requirements for loan forgiveness. Roughly one-quarter don’t think the PPP loan will be enough for them to survive.

Some 45 percent of respondents believe it will take three or fewer months for their business to return to pre-COVID norms, while 57 percent of respondents think it will take seven or more months for the U.S. economy to return to normal. Nearly 20 percent of businesses say they have already returned to pre-COVID revenues.

Business resilience has remained steady since wave one of the survey, fielded April 17-20 — at 70 on a scale of 1-100. Businesses with 50 to 500 employees, fast-growth businesses and Midwestern businesses appear to be more resilient than their peers.

Business owners’ top priorities:

23 percent are focused on maintaining customer relationships

21 percent are focused on managing business as usual

14 percent are focused on reducing expenses

5 percent are focused on revising their go-to-market approach.

Reopening their businesses has become a higher priority since wave three of the survey, fielded May 1-4

One-third of businesses are concerned that they won’t have sufficient customer demand upon reopening, while 31 percent are worried about keeping employees safe at work. Some 84 percent of businesses are somewhat or very concerned about a possible second wave of infection, while

64 percent feel they could survive a second wave financially.

“Paychex will be with these businesses every step of the way, helping them navigate each challenge from access to federal relief to applying for loan forgiveness to bringing employees back to work,” Mucci said. “We will do this by continuing to offer resources online, tools in Paychex Flex and effective recommendations from our team of certified HR professionals.”

— Velvet Spicer, BridgeTower Media Newswires

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