This month marks the second anniversary of Covid-19 which ended the world we knew. Main streets across America have overcome one of their toughest challenges since the Great Depression and the small businesses that have survived have become more resilient than before the pandemic.
The virus itself may be here to stay, but businesses and communities are reopening in part thanks to Covid-19 vaccines and boosters. A full recovery will still take time, especially for small businesses across the country.
Thanks to this crisis, we have learned a lot about our economy and the type of main street we should aspire to build after the pandemic. Here are five important lessons we’ve learned over the past two years.
1. Never underestimate the resilience of small businesses and budding entrepreneurs
The number of small businesses that have been forced to close will always be one component of the impacts of Covid-19, but another part will be a story of how many have found ways to survive. Whether it’s relentlessly seeking low-cost capital like Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, going digital, or adjusting their operations to meet the new normal of the pandemic, business owners did what they had to to stay open – these stories of resilience continue to inspire me and business owners.
What was even more surprising was the number of Americans who started their own small businesses during the pandemic. Yelp Data showed that between March 11, 2020 and March 1, 2021, nearly half a million new businesses opened. That was down just 14% from the year before Covid-19.
2. Long-standing inequalities still exist and are compounded in times of crisis
While many businesses survived, many were forced to close unevenly. The pandemic has exposed how incredibly vulnerable small business owners, especially black and brown business owners, are. Between February and April 2020, 41% of black-owned businesses closed, along with 36% of Latinx businesses and 25% of women-owned businesses. For the next crisis, it is essential that all businesses have easy access to capital to mitigate its effects.
3. Programs like the American Rescue Plan have helped countless small businesses survive the pandemic
A number of government programs like the PPP have helped businesses through the first year of the pandemic. One bill that helped them get to the other side was the US bailout, which invested $1.9 trillion in a number of areas, including expanding the Child Tax Credit for almost 40 million families with 65 million children and reduced health care premiums for 14.5. million Americans buying coverage on the Marketplace. Additionally, 85% of Americans received Economic Impact Payments of $1,400. These efforts contributed to the best year of job growth on record, with 6.7 million jobs added to the workforce in 2021.
4. Small businesses will take longer to recover from a crisis, but the bipartisan infrastructure law will help them
Since small businesses – at most – usually have a few months of cash on hand, they will take longer than larger companies to recover from a crisis. The bipartisan Infrastructure Act (BIL) will help accelerate this recovery. This first-of-its-kind bipartisan law will give the economy and main streets across America a much-needed upgrade. One of the areas it will do is increase broadband Internet access for small businesses to reach their full potential. More than 30 million Americans live in areas where there is no broadband infrastructure to provide minimally acceptable Internet speeds. BIL is allocating $65 billion to address this problem, including $40 billion for a formula-based grant program to states, territories and the District of Columbia for broadband deployment.
5. More needs to be done for fairer taxes and access to capital
During all this chaos, American multinationals have paid less than 10% in corporate taxes on American profits. Not only is this unfair, but it also makes it harder for small businesses to have the capital they need to grow their business and operate in the same space as corporations.
May 2021 investigation from Small Business for America’s Future found that small businesses are feeling the effects of these pressures, with 76% of small business owners saying they are harmed when companies use loopholes to avoid taxes. A global minimum tax and a fairer tax code will help reduce this disparity.
Sometimes the only silver lining to a crisis are the lessons learned from it. We should take what we know now and apply it to building a more equitable Main Street that is prepared for the next crisis we must endure.