Georgia small business owners continue to face setbacks from the pandemic, identify policy solutions to support their businesses
Nearly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic that has strained Georgia’s economy and public health system, small businesses across the state continue to face significant financial setbacks that are hampering their recovery. A new survey sheds light on the state of small business in Georgia, as well as their views on policy solutions that can boost their businesses and provide important support to their employees.
The poll, conducted by Chesapeake Beach Consulting for Small Business Majority, surveyed 300 small businesses in Georgia. The survey highlights the extent to which the COVID-19 crisis has pushed small businesses to the brink: 6 in 10 have been negatively affected, and the same number say their revenues declined last year compared to the previous year. More than half of those whose revenue declined report it will take more than six months for their business revenues to return to pre-pandemic levels, and 7% say they will never fully recover.
Small business owners around the state have had to resort to significant measures to counteract these losses. One in 4 report they temporarily closed their business, more than 1 in 3 cut employee hours, 29% changed their business model dramatically, and 12% laid off employees permanently, among other measures.
The survey gauged entrepreneurs’ views on a number of state policy proposals that would have an impact on small businesses and their employees, as well as Georgia’s economy. One of the most popular proposals is to expand Medicaid eligibility to people who make 138% of the federal poverty level (59% support, with 30% strongly supporting). Additional policy proposals include the following:
- Nearly 6 in 10 (58%) support establishing a state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) program for low-income employees and self-employed business owners, modeled on the federal EITC program.
- 56% support creating a statewide retirement program for employees of small businesses and the self-employed, to be funded entirely by employee contributions.
- Half of small businesses support creating a state paid family and medical leave insurance program, funded by a payroll tax paid for by employees and employers (compared to 43% who oppose).
- A plurality (48%) want to eliminate tax credits that out-of-state film companies can claim, which have allowed them to avoid paying any Georgia state taxes. Such a change could help level the playing field for small, local businesses that are unable to access these sorts of tax credits.
It’s important to note that the respondents are politically diverse and don’t view these policy issues through an ideological lens: 45% of respondents identify as Republican or Republican-leaning independent, 28% as Democrat or Democrat-leaning independent and 16% as pure Independent.
As these findings reveal, many Georgia small businesses are still struggling to keep the lights on and their employees on payroll as a result of the economic downturn. While many policymakers tout Georgia as a great state to own and operate a business, the results of this poll suggest that small businesses may be little more than a talking point for these officials, as business owners are making difficult decisions to keep their costs down. As the state legislature considers many issues related to healthcare and benefits, tax credits and other proposals that could impact the business community and the economy, it’s critical that they put the needs of Georgia small businesses front and center in their policymaking.