NFIB Weekly News
Leading the News
Treasury Dept. Told Banks To Prioritize Current Clients For PPP Loans (10/20/2020)
In an exclusive, the Wall Street Journal (10/16, Omeokwe, Tracy, Subscription Publication) said that the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis on Friday released a report that alleges the Treasury Department had encouraged banks to give preferential treatment to their current customers when allocating loans for the $670 billion Paycheck Protection Program. Lawmakers charged that such actions hurt minority- and women-owned businesses.
Despite New Form, Lenders Still Uncertain Regarding How To Forgive PPP Loans. The Colorado Sun (10/13) reported banks and lenders remain uncertain as to how to forgive Paycheck Protection Program loans. While a “new simpler form” is meant “to make it less complicated for those who borrowed up to $50,000,” the new form “isn’t as simple as some had hoped, said Nim Patel, chief strategy officer for the nonprofit Colorado Enterprise Fund, which had an average paycheck loan size of $23,000.”
Continuing Coverage Of Small Business Optimism Index
Stephen Moore writes in The Hill (10/15) that NFIB “issued its monthly survey of its members’ hiring and expansion plans. It could hardly have been more bullish. Small-business confidence — a key vital sign of economic health — has come all the way back to where it was at the start of the year before the pandemic.”
In contrast, Business Journals (10/15) reported, “As Congress continues to remain deadlocked over a new round of stimulus, studies show the picture for many small businesses is...bleak. A National Federation of Independent Business survey showed 22% of PPP borrowers anticipate layoffs in the next six months, nearly half anticipate needing additional financial support in that time, and 44% of owners would apply for a PPP loan for the first or second time if Congress extended the program.”
David I. Templeton mentions NFIB’s Small Business Optimism Index in Seeking Alpha (10/14), saying that small business owners’ plans to increase employment and difficulty in filling open positions “are a couple of signs the job market is healing.”
Small Business Optimism, Uncertainty Increased In September
NFIB Small Business Optimism Index rose by 3.8 points for a September reading of 104.0, a historically high result. NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg was quoted saying, “As parts of the country continue to open, small businesses are seeing some improvements in foot traffic and sales. ... However, some small businesses are still struggling financially to operate at full capacity while navigating state and local regulations and are uncertain about what will happen in the future.” NFIB’s Uncertainty Index also increased by 2 points to 92, up from 75 in April.
Small Business Owners Await Clarity On PPP Forgiveness
The New York Times (10/9, Cowley) reported small business owners are awaiting guidance on the forgiveness portion of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) will work. Many lenders wait to see if Congress will pass legislation to forgive debt under $150,000 before processing forgiveness applications from businesses. New rules released last week by the Small Business Administration (SBA) allowed some borrowers to have loans forgiven if the reduced staffing or wages, but they will have to submit payroll records and other documents.
NFIB’s Harned Argues For The Necessity Of The Safe To Work Act
Law360 (9/18, Campbell, Subscription Publication) reported on the current state of COVID-19 liability for employers as the Safe to Work Act, along with other pandemic relief legislation, remains stalled in Congress. The article quotes NFIB Legal Center Executive Director Karen Harned as saying the Safe to Work Act is necessary for businesses, because while liability suits are still fairly uncommon, “Coronavirus suits may follow a similar trajectory as asbestos litigation, which has stayed consistent despite expectations that it would taper off years ago,” adding “just because there’s not a flood right now doesn’t mean there won’t be one later, or that it won’t be a steady stream for years to come.” The article noted that the Safe to Work Act “would simultaneously empower workers to seek damages when they contract the novel coronavirus on the job while shielding all but the most reckless employers from legal liability,” though it would not preclude “enforcement actions by the U.S. Department of Labor.”
Small Business Optimism Rises in August
The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index (9/8) was slightly above its historical average thanks to an increase of 1.4 points in August, rising to 100.2. NFIB’s Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg was quoted as saying, “We are seeing areas of improvement in the small business economy, as job openings and plans to hire are increasing, but many small businesses are still struggling and are uncertain about what the future will hold.” The NFIB’s Uncertainty Index also rose “in August, to 90, the second-highest reading since March 2017.”
Mnuchin Says Agreement On Coronavirus Bill Unlikely Before Election (10/20/2020)
Reuters (10/14, Cornwell) reported Treasury Secretary Mnuchin said Wednesday that he and House Speaker Pelosi are “far apart” on a coronavirus relief package and although it would be difficult to reach an agreement before the election, he would keep trying. Mnuchin, who spoke by phone with Pelosi Wednesday morning, said, “I’d say at this point, getting something done before the election and executing on that would be difficult just given where we are and the level of detail, but we’re going to try to continue to work through these issues.” The Washington Post (10/14, Werner, Stein) reported Mnuchin, who was speaking at the Milken Institute Global Conference, was asked if Democrats do not want to make a deal because they do not want to give the President a win ahead of the election. Mnuchin said, “I think that definitely is part of the reality. That’s definitely an issue. But the President is very focused on when he wins we will need to do more. So that’s part of the reason to continue to work on this. ... The clock will not stop.”
Fed’s Kashkari Predicts “Slower,” “Grinding” Recovery Without Additional Stimulus
Small Business Marketing
Reuters (10/15, Marte) reported Minneapolis Federal Reserve President Neel Kashkari said Thursday that the economic recovery will be slow without more assistance for the unemployed and businesses. Kashkari said during a virtual discussion organized by New York University Stern Center for Global Economy and Business that without more stimulus, “we will end up having a much slower – what I would call a grinding – recovery.”
Fed’s Bostic: Some Areas Of Economy Recovering Strongly While Others Are Still Struggling
Bloomberg (10/18, Bull) reported Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President Raphael Bostic said Sunday while some parts of the economy are coming back strongly, others are still having difficulty because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Wall Street Journal (10/18, Baer, Morath, Subscription Publication) reported on people who find themselves on the downside of the recovery.
Administration Urges Congress To Pass Stripped-Down Stimulus, Says Talks Will Continue
Reuters (10/11, Volcovici) reported the Administration on Sunday “called on Congress to pass a stripped-down coronavirus relief bill using leftover funds from an expired small-business loan program, as negotiations on a broader package ran into resistance.” In a letter to lawmakers, Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Chief of Staff Meadows “said they would continue to talk to” House Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Schumer “to try to reach agreement on a comprehensive bill,” but they called on Congress to “immediately vote” on legislation to allow the use of the unused PPP funds.
Amid Pandemic, Businesses In Difficult Position As Fourth Quarter Begins
The AP (10/11, Rosenberg) reported that for small businesses, the final three months of the year look “precarious as the coronavirus maintains its grip on the economy.” The fourth quarter “is a key time for many industries and companies of all sizes. Some retailers typically expect to make as much as half their annual revenue during the holiday shopping season, as do many of their suppliers. ... But conditions are dicey this year.” Small businesses have been “devastated” by the pandemic and more “will likely go out of business if they cannot bring in the revenue they need.”
PayNet’s Small Business Lending Index Declined In August
The ABF Journal (10/8) reported PayNet’s “Small Business Lending Index (SBLI) declined for the first time since April, falling 13.5 points (-9.1%) to 134.7 and 5.5% below its year-ago level.” In August, small business lending fell in 8 out of the 10 largest states, with Pennsylvania (-1.7%), Ohio, (-.1.1%), and New York (-1%) leading the declines.
Continuing: National Small Business Week (10/20/2020)
WVNews (10/19) reported that Positively West Virginia podcast host Jim Matuga “hosted a special edition of the podcast highlighting the West Virginia Small Business Administration’s 2020 award winners.” SBA Regional Administrator Steve Bulger and SBA District Director Karen Friel joined the podcast. Friel said: “I just want to say whether it is this year’s award winners or past award winners, these phenomenal small business owners who have gotten into business utilize the resources that were available to them. I have to give a shoutout to my team. If it were not for them, we would not be able to do what we do.”
The Central New York Business Journal (10/16) reported that SBA District Director Bernard Paprocki participated in presenting National Small Business Week award, honoring Josh Gilson, owner of Tradesman Contracting in Rensselaer Falls as the Upstate New York 2020 Small Business Person of the Year as well as Francesca Orsomarso as upstate New York’s Entrepreneur of the Year.
News Is My Business (PRI) (10/16) reported that Nydia Padilla, president of South Puerto Rico Towing & Boat Services Inc., received the “Woman Entrepreneur of the Year” Award for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as part of SBA’s National Small Business Week.
Startups Help Small Businesses Utilize Voice Platforms During Pandemic
Wages and Benefits
Adweek (10/15, Kulp) reported startup Zammo is helping some small business “build out a presence on major voice platforms.” Zammo CEO Alex Farr, discussing the company’s launch during the pandemic, said, “Our demand actually went through the roof because people wanted no-touch, no germs... What Covid has done for our industry – and for voice interactions in general – is that they have exponentially sped up the adoption of it.”
GeekWire (10/16) profiled Jonathan Sandals, founder of Seattle-based company Sook, which offers “a Google Chrome extension that aggregates product listings from numerous small store websites in one place and makes it easier to ‘browse online and buy from the boutique next door.’”
Advice For Small Business Owners To Make The Most Of Amazon Advertising
Born2Invest (10/15, Jones) provided advice for small business owners to grow their “visibility in the market through Amazon advertising” in ways that align with Amazon’s new algorithms. Sponsored ads on Amazon provide “high visibility placement on Amazon shopping results” that helps drive product sales. Born2Invest highlighted the importance of choosing “between unique products that are rare and much sought after” and offering the “lowest possible price in the market” to remain competitive.
DocuSign’s eSignature Service Now Integrates With Slack
ZDNet (10/5, Gagliordi) reported DocuSign and Slack on Monday “announced a new collaboration that will integrate DocuSign’s eSignature tool into Slack’s workplace collaboration platform.” Slack “has partnerships with companies such as Workday, Atlassian, AWS, Oracle, SAP, Google, Salesforce, and ServiceNow.”
Amazon Launches Small Business Gift Guide In Partnership With The Newsette
Women’s Wear Daily (10/8, Pastore) reported that with its Prime Day sale approaching, Amazon has introduced a holiday gift guide, in partnership with The Newsette, which highlights products from small businesses. The guide “is comprised of products across all categories” and from many different brands.
Fireside Chat: Small Business Leaders Revise Marketing Strategy During Pandemic
PYMNTS (10/8) reported on a virtual fireside chat in which “four small business owners and executives said small steps are the key to navigating the large-scale changes demanded by the pivot toward contactless interactions – and contactless payments.” The small business leaders were “Ngina Shulman, owner at Lotus Media; Ryan Alovis, CEO at LensDirect; Nick Nicholas, owner and technical director at Genesis Water Technologies; and Tina Wells, CEO and founder at RLVNT Media.” Wells “said that in the digital age, companies must refocus and redefine the traditional ‘four Ps’ of marketing – product, place, promotion and price.” Nicholas added the “new normal” of marketing “includes webinars and direct, over-the-web interactions with clients to learn about and respond to their needs.”
New Jobless Claims Post Biggest Weekly Increase In Two Months (10/20/2020)
The AP (10/15, Rugaber) The AP (10/15, Rugaber) reported, “The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose last week by the most in two months, to 898,000, a historically high number and evidence that layoffs remain a hindrance to the economy’s recovery from the pandemic recession.” The AP added the report from the Labor Department “coincides with other recent data that have signaled a slowdown in hiring. The economy is still roughly 10.7 million jobs short of recovering all the 22 million jobs that were lost when the pandemic struck in early spring.”
The New York Times (10/15, Schwartz, Friedman) cast the numbers an indication that the economy “is showing fresh signs of deceleration.”
Studies: Aid Expiration Has Driven Many Millions Into Poverty
The New York Times (10/15, DeParle) reported that according to two new studies, “after an ambitious expansion of the safety net in the spring saved millions of people from poverty, the aid is now largely exhausted and poverty has returned to levels higher than before the coronavirus crisis.” The Times said, “The number of poor people has grown by eight million since May, according to researchers at Columbia University, after falling by four million at the pandemic’s start as a result of an $2 trillion emergency package known as the Cares Act.” The Times added, “Using a different definition of poverty, researchers from the University of Chicago and Notre Dame found that poverty has grown by six million people in the past three months, with circumstances worsening most for Black people and children.”
Media Analyses Point To Jobless Numbers As Evidence Recovery Is Slowing
Bloomberg (10/8, Rockeman) reported initial jobless claims decreased by 9,000 to 840,000 in the week of October 3. Bloomberg said the labor market has made “scant progress amid risks of further weakness without additional federal stimulus.” To the New York Times (10/8, Casselman), a “larger trend is clear: After falling swiftly from a peak of more than 6 million last spring, weekly jobless claims have stalled at a level far higher than the worst weeks of past recessions.”
Commission On Civil Rights Calls For End To Program That Permits Subminimum Wage For Workers With Disabilities
The Hill (9/17, Budryk) reported that last Thursday, the US Commission on Civil Rights “called for an end to a program that allows employers to pay disabled workers less than the minimum wage.” In a report Thursday, “the commission said both the Labor Department and the Justice Department have failed to regulate the program and let it fall short of meeting the needs of disabled people. Overall, the commission said, the program has been ‘inconsistent with the civil rights protections to which people with disabilities are entitled.’” The commission “called for Congress to phase out the program, noting that similar phaseouts have been implemented at the state level to keep disabled people from losing access to key services.”
WSJournal: Trump Policies Lifted Wages, Benefited Lower-Income Workers Before Pandemic
In an editorial, the Wall Street Journal (9/16, Subscription Publication) said Census Bureau data showed lower-income workers and minorities benefited from the Trump Administration’s economic policies before the coronavirus hit, and warns voters to consider what kind of economy they want once the pandemic is over.
Most Retailers Have Ended Pandemic-Related Wage Increases; Some Have Increased Wages Permanently
The Minneapolis Star Tribune (9/3, Ewolt) reported that with some exceptions, “most of the temporary pay bumps put into effect as the coronavirus pandemic started to hit the U.S. have expired.” A few retailers have raised hourly wages permanently, “but for the most part, as demand for grocery staples levels off, the hazard pay is going away as well.” One retailer that instituted a permanent wage increase is “Target, which had also added hazard pay in the spring,” and then “permanently raised [its] minimum wage to $15 an hour in July, when the temporary bump ended.”