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Survey of 1,282 Long Island businesses shows anxiety over future 

Hofstra conducted the online survey of small business

Hofstra conducted the online survey of small business owners in May 19-29; above, on "Small Business Saturday" last year, Stuart Miller, one of the owners of Millers Housewares & Hardware in Lynbrook, helps a customer. Credit: Danielle Silverman

Nearly four in 10 small-business owners on Long Island are worried that consumers won’t visit their establishments out of fear of catching the coronavirus, according to a survey from Hofstra University.

The poll of 1,282 businesses, equally divided between Nassau and Suffolk counties, found customers’ health fears is the No. 1 challenge to reopening the local economy.

Other top challenges identified by business owners are the cost of reopening, 33%; consumers lacking the money to shop, 24%, and the loss of a loyal customer base, 13%.

Hofstra conducted the online survey between May 19 and May 29 as part of a larger effort by both counties to address the needs of companies and to lobby for more federal and state funds. In March, the university and Suffolk conducted separate surveys.

Eighty-percent of the businesses polled had 10 or fewer employees before the virus’ outbreak and 46% of owners said they’ve laid off staff. The businesses’ median gross revenue last year was $357,143 and 96% of owners predicted lower revenue in 2020.

The survey results show “the gravity of the situation that small businesses face in the worst economic fallout since the Great Depression,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said Thursday. “The information gathered will inform our ability to continue to develop programs on a regional basis that meet the financial needs of employers looking to recover and rehire.”

Asked what they need from governments and nonprofits, 26% of business owners said microloans, 19% said clear guidelines on social distancing and the use of personal protection equipment; 18%, additional COVID-19 testing, and 17%, supplies of PPE for employees.

The Hofstra survey found entrepreneurs were still confused about whether their businesses were deemed “essential” by New York State, and so, allowed to remain open during Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s shutdown, which aims to slow the coronavirus' spread. 

Nine percent said they weren’t sure of their business’ status while 55% said they were “nonessential” and 35% said “essential.” For the past two months, owners have expressed frustration with the complicated process for seeking "essential" status from Empire State Development, the state's primary business-aid agency.

More than half the businesses surveyed by Hofstra have received a federal coronavirus relief loan: either a Paycheck Protection Program loan, an Economic Injury Disaster Loan, or both. Half of the loans were between $500 and $50,000.

“The pain and uncertainty caused by COVID-19 for our small businesses, their employees and families remain constant,” said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran. “Loans have served as a lifeline for more than half of our businesses, but it’s clear, the need continues.”

TOP REOPENING CHALLENGES

38% Customers afraid to visit businesses for fear of catching the coronavirus

33% Financial impact of a phased reopening of the economy

24% Customers don't have money to shop

13% Loss of loyal customer base

SOURCE: Hofstra University survey of 1,282 businesses on Long Island in May 19-29

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