Keith Hall, CPA
President and CEO, National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE)
The novel coronavirus pandemic has left the American small business community struggling and put many businesses on life support. A resounding 93 percent of small businesses have reported disruptions brought on by COVID-19. The small business community is resilient but Main Streets across the country need our support now more than ever.
As the pandemic quickly resulted in lockdowns followed by small business closings, the National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) became a leading resource for small business owners, including as a source for real-time updates through a dedicated COVID Pandemic Resource Page. As has been the case since 1981, NASE continues to be a one-stop shop for the small business community to stay informed on congressional actions and small business support efforts during this unprecedented time.
Making the difference for our membership (which comprises the self-employed, gig workers, and businesses with fewer than 10 employees) has always been our calling. Each day, NASE sets out to add value to the lives of our members, which is why during this pandemic we have boosted our free Ask the Experts benefit, where entrepreneurs can receive counsel directly on issues ranging from healthcare and taxes to real estate.
Every aspect of a small business’s operations is being impacted by this ongoing pandemic, according to a recent survey by the Small Business Roundtable, a coalition of small business groups and their allies, of which NASE is a founding member. One-third of small businesses have shut their doors, and many are still fighting to resume operations or fully serve their customers.
Additionally, small businesses have been forced to adapt to a new way of conducting business. One of those ways has been through the use of digital tools. From Zoom to online payment platforms and advanced technologies, small businesses are innovating to survive. The entrepreneurial spirit remains alive and well in our country, but small businesses need our support, which is why we’re honored to partner with businesses like DELL, who is sponsoring our critical growth grant program that is providing immediate $4,000 grants to small business owners to help adapt and evolve their business operations.
Advocating for financial support
For lawmakers to fully understand the concerns most important to the small business community, we quickly shifted into high gear to provide a voice for our community at the start of this pandemic by defining our immediate policy priorities.
Together with other small business advocates, we pressed lawmakers for financial support through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which provided loans for millions of small businesses.
The NASE also advocated for targeted relief for the millions of self-employed and gig workers impacted. For the first time in history, this growing business demographic was part of financial relief. Unfortunately, while the aim of the PPP was well-intentioned, many small businesses were unable to take advantage of a program fraught with confusion and limitations.
Another round of support
Despite an initial round of financial support approved by the U.S. Congress earlier this year, nine months into the pandemic, small businesses continue to struggle. As we approach the end of this perilous year, we are continuing to work with our elected leaders to build support for another round of small business financial relief.
In September, we outlined the top priorities for continued support, including additional business loans combined with expedited loan forgiveness programs. This was followed by an announcement of a streamlined loan forgiveness process by the Administration for those with loans of $50,000 and under. While it’s a welcome first development toward our goal of making financial support more efficient and beneficial for our small business members, the threshold should be extended to $150,000 and coupled with additional top priorities in order to make a substantial difference for more American small businesses.
Entrepreneurship is the lifeblood of our nation’s economy. Without the thriving small business spirit that has always been the economic hallmark of our country, recovery from this pandemic is not possible. It is imperative our federal lawmakers find common ground on the issues vital to the health of small businesses. Rest assured, at NASE we will continue to give voice to the entire small business community and keep business owners advised of important developments.