The coronavirus is having a big impact on small businesses.
We don’t have numbers for Mississippi, but a nationwide survey of small businesses by the National Federation of Independent Business says 76% of owners report being affected in some way by COVID-19, compared with fewer than 25% earlier this month.
Not surprisingly, 56% of owners say sales are down because of social distancing, while 23% say their supply chain has been disrupted. Twenty percent of owners surveyed by NFIB said the novel coronavirus hasn’t affected them, but most of those say it probably will eventually.
This is bad, because small business is the engine that drives the nation’s – and Mississippi's – economy.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses account for 99.3% of all employers in the state, and they employ 46.9% of Mississippi's private-sector workforce.
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 though we’re socially distancing ourselves and should avoid going out.
-- Get take-out or delivery. Restaurant dining rooms may be closed, but a lot of local restaurants’ kitchens are still open. And be sure to tip your server or delivery driver.
-- 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 crisis is over.
Small businesses, after all, aren’t owned by some big corporation based someplace else. Small businesses are owned by – and employ – our family, friends, and neighbors. Small businesses create jobs and support our children’s schools and sports teams. Small businesses hold our communities together, and we can’t afford to lose them.
Mississippi'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 immense. The question is how long will it last, and how long will it be before things return to normal.
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.
Dawn Starns is the Mississippi state director of the National Federation of Independent Business.