Small businesses are struggling to return to pre-pandemic form, new survey says

Small businesses in Massachusetts face a long road to recovery coming out of the pandemic, as well as an array of inflation-related problems, according to a survey released Thursday.

About half (53 percent) of the respondents said that revenue is lower now than before the pandemic, despite multiple rounds of federal COVID relief funding. Eighty percent reported receiving some relief money, though smaller and non-white businesses were more likely to miss out, according to the survey.

The survey, conducted by the Coalition for an Equitable Economy in partnership with The MassINC Polling Group and Mass Growth Capital Corporation, polled 3,243 Massachusetts businesses with fewer than 500 employees about their needs, inflation and pandemic concerns, and access to capital and other resources.

The results showed that small businesses owned by people of color have been disproportionately affected by pandemic-related financial issues. Many reported having more trouble finding and raising money compared with white-owned businesses.

Businesses owned by entrepreneurs of color were more likely to report a range of challenges in applying for loans, and less likely to receive the full amount of money they applied for application, according to the coalition’s report.

In general, small businesses said they need more capital for equipment and expansion, and to hire more workers.

The survey also found that more white entrepreneurs are in a position to retire from or sell their business.

Beyond pandemic-related issues, the state’s smallest businesses (which are more likely to be owned by women or people of color) face a variety of other roadblocks as they attempt to return to pre-pandemic success.

Topping the list is inflation. Seventy-four percent of small businesses reported that increasing operational costs are a major concern, while 61 percent cited higher payroll expenses as a serious problem.

Small businesses also are still struggling to fill job openings. Some 46 percent of respondents said hiring was a major concern, while 25 percent said it was of some concern.

Steve Koczela, president of the MassINC Polling Group, said the data could provide insight into pandemic recovery and future struggles for small businesses across the state.

“This survey offers an incredibly nuanced and granular look at small businesses in Massachusetts,” said Koczela. “Knowing these details about how different businesses are faring will help economic and policy leaders respond.”

Collin Robisheaux can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @ColRobisheaux.

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