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The evolving impacts of COVID-19 on small businesses since the CARES Act




This note provides new evidence on how small business owners have been impacted by COVID-19, and how these effects have evolved since the passage of the CARES Act. As part of a broader and ongoing project, we collected survey data from more than 8,000 small business owners in the U.S. from March 28th, one day after the CARES Act was passed, through April 20th. The data include information on firm size, layoffs, beliefs about the future prospects of their businesses, as well as awareness of existing government relief programs. We provide three main findings. First, by the time the CARES Act was passed, surveyed small business owners were already severely impacted by COVID-19-related disruptions: 60% had already laid off at least one worker. Second, business owners' expectations about the future are negative and have deteriorated throughout our study period, with 37% of respondents in the first week reporting that they did not expect to recover within 2 years, growing to 46% by the last week. Third, the smallest businesses had the least awareness of government assistance programs, the slowest growth in awareness after the passage of the CARES Act, and never caught up with larger businesses. The last finding indicates that small businesses may have missed out on initial Paycheck Protection Program funds because of low baseline awareness and differential access to information relative to larger firms.

Suggested Citation

  • John Eric Humphries & Christopher Neilson & Gabriel Ulyssea, 2020. "The evolving impacts of COVID-19 on small businesses since the CARES Act," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 2230, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  • Handle: RePEc:cwl:cwldpp:2230

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Béland, Louis-Philippe & Brodeur, Abel & Wright, Taylor, 2020. "The Short-Term Economic Consequences of COVID-19: Exposure to Disease, Remote Work and Government Response," IZA Discussion Papers 13159, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    2. Adams-Prassl, Abi & Boneva, Teodora & Golin, Marta & Rauh, Christopher, 2020. "Inequality in the impact of the coronavirus shock: Evidence from real time surveys," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 189(C).
    3. Alexander W. Bartik & Marianne Bertrand & Zoë B. Cullen & Edward L. Glaeser & Michael Luca & Christopher T. Stanton, 2020. "How Are Small Businesses Adjusting to COVID-19? Early Evidence from a Survey," NBER Working Papers 26989, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Cao, Shutao & Leung, Danny, 2020. "Credit constraints and productivity of SMEs: Evidence from Canada," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 88(C), pages 163-180.
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    RePEc Biblio mentions

    As found on the RePEc Biblio, the curated bibliography for Economics:
    1. > Economics of Welfare > Health Economics > Economics of Pandemics > Specific pandemics > Covid-19 > Economic policy > Business support


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    Cited by:

    1. Magdalena Olczyk & Marta Ewa Kuc-Czarnecka, 2021. "Determinants of COVID-19 Impact on the Private Sector: A Multi-Country Analysis Based on Survey Data," Energies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 14(14), pages 1-17, July.
    2. John Gallemore & Stephan Hollander & Martin Jacob, 2020. "Who CARES? Evidence on the Corporate Tax Provisions of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act from SEC Filings," Working Papers 2020-81, Becker Friedman Institute for Research In Economics.
    3. Olivia S. Kim & Jonathan A. Parker & Antoinette Schoar, 2020. "Revenue Collapses and the Consumption of Small Business Owners in the Early Stages of the COVID-19 Pandemic," NBER Working Papers 28151, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Laura Alfaro & Oscar Becerra & Marcela Eslava, 2020. "Economías emergentes y COVID-19 Cierres en un mundo de empresas informales y pequeñas," Documentos CEDE 018205, Universidad de los Andes - CEDE.
    5. Lei Li & Philip E. Strahan & Song Zhang, 2020. "Banks as Lenders of First Resort: Evidence from the COVID-19 Crisis," NBER Working Papers 27256, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Sumedha Gupta & Laura Montenovo & Thuy D. Nguyen & Felipe Lozano Rojas & Ian M. Schmutte & Kosali I. Simon & Bruce A. Weinberg & Coady Wing, 2020. "Effects of Social Distancing Policy on Labor Market Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 27280, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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    More about this item


    COVID-19; Small business; CARES Act;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J0 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General
    • H0 - Public Economics - - General
    • H5 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies

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