Paychex Study Finds 63% of Business Owners Feel the Worst of the COVID-19 Pandemic is Behind Them

As business owners across the country focus on getting back to business, 63 percent feel the worst is behind them when it comes to the impact of COVID-19 on their operations, according to new research from Paychex, Inc., a leading provider of human resources, payroll, benefits, and insurance solutions for 670,000 small- and medium-sized businesses. However, 4 in 5 business owners are somewhat or very concerned about a possible second wave of infection.

“Over the past couple of 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.”

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As part of a COVID-19 survey series, Paychex polled 300 randomly selected business owners with two to 500 employees beginning April 17, 2020. The most recent wave of the survey, conducted from May 15 to May 17, 2020, revealed the following insights:

Businesses’ current status:

  • 46% of business owners report they are fully open and operational
  • 42% are open on a limited basis
  • 12% are closed, but plan to reopen
  • Of the businesses that are open, 30% closed at one point during the pandemic
  • Of the businesses that are closed, half plan to open by July, and 25% will open as soon as they are allowed

Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan status:

  • 44% of businesses have applied for a PPP loan
  • Of those that applied, 58% have now received payment, twice as many as wave three (May 1-4)
  • Businesses with 2 to 49 employees are now twice as likely to have received a PPP loan as businesses with 50 to 500 employees

PPP concerns:

  • 37% of businesses are not clear on how to apply for PPP loan forgiveness
  • That said, 68% are very or extremely confident they will meet the requirements for loan forgiveness
  • 26% don’t think the PPP loan will be enough for them to survive

Expected time to return to normal:

  • 45% of respondents think it will take three or fewer months for their business to return to pre-COVID norms
  • 57% of respondents think it will take seven or more months for the U.S. economy to return to normal
  • 19% of businesses say they have already returned to pre-COVID revenues

Business resilience:

  • 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 (80), fast-growth businesses (79), and Midwestern businesses (76) are more resilient than their peers

Business owners’ top priorities:

  • 23% are focused on maintaining customer relationships
  • 21% on managing business as usual
  • 14% on reducing expenses
  • 5% 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)

Reopening concerns:

  • 33% of businesses are concerned that they won’t have sufficient customer demand upon reopening
  • 31% are worried about keeping employees safe at work

Concerns of a second wave:

  • 84% of businesses are somewhat or very concerned about a possible second wave of infection
  • 64% feel they could survive a second wave financially

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“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 added. “We will do this by continuing to offer resources online, tools in Paychex Flex, and effective recommendations from our team of certified HR professionals.”

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