Rutgers survey finds small businesses are adapting to pandemic, but fear for future

A new survey by Rutgers University has found that small businesses are adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic, but will continue to need help in the near future, including financial and technical support.

The survey, conducted by Rutgers’ Heldrich Center for Workforce Development and sponsored by the New Jersey Small Business Development Center, found that many businesses say they will need more support from the state and federal governments to navigate the pandemic.

Among the survey’s findings were that most businesses are both taking steps to ensure safety of customers and employees, and many are increasing the use of digital technology to conduct business. On the other hand, 9 in 10 said uncertainty about the future represents a major challenge.

Other findings included:

  • 9 in 10 customer-facing businesses are very or somewhat confident they can satisfy customers with goods or services;
  • 8 in 10 expect to lose significant revenue or funding in the next three to six months;
  • 6 in 10 received Paycheck Protection Program assistance;
  • 5 in 10 received New Jersey Economic Development Authority grants or loans.

The research was led by Carl Van Horn, distinguished professor and director of the Heldrich Center, and Jessica Starace, research associate.

“Small businesses benefited from the financial support provided by federal and state government programs, but many still need technical assistance to transition to digital marketing and service delivery,” Van Horn said in a prepared statement. “The New Jersey Economic Development Authority and the New Jersey Small Business Development Center are the organizations that businesses will most likely turn to for help.”

The New Jersey Business Action Center, part of the Department of State, helped distribute the survey; it partially funds the NJSBDC and provides businesses with critical assistance.

“The two offices (the NJBAC and NJSBDC) work together with the goal of finding the right mix of tools and resources to aid New Jersey businesses,” Secretary of State Tahesha Way said in a statement. “Since COVID-19 upended our lives, the New Jersey Business Action Center has helped 59,000 businesses find the information they need — from financing and grant opportunities to understanding how to operate in this new environment.”

The online survey of more than 2,000 businesses and nonprofits in New Jersey was conducted between Nov. 4 and Dec. 1, 2020. More than 700 businesses participating are women-owned, 400 are minority-owned and most employ less than 10 workers.