June 02, 2020
Business Latest News | Coronavirus | Bangor Metro | Anti-Racism Protests | Today's Paper

Most Maine small businesses got federal aid but are low on cash, survey shows

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
A sign outside Skip's Lounge in Buxton on April 25 gives voice to a business owner's frustration over the coronavirus shutdown.

Click here for the latest coronavirus news, which the BDN has made free for the public. You can support our critical reporting on the coronavirus by purchasing a digital subscription or donating directly to the newsroom.

Maine small businesses are running short on cash as problems including supply chain disruptions remain an issue as the economy starts to reopen, according to a survey from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The data, collected from a sampling of small businesses at the end of April and early May, shed light on the challenges faced by Maine businesses despite widespread access to federal aid programs, such as the Paycheck Protection Program.

[Our COVID-19 tracker contains the most recent information on Maine cases by county]

Nearly half percent of Maine businesses said they had seen a large negative effect due to the coronavirus outbreak — including 100 percent of businesses in the accommodations and food services industry — while 38 percent said they had seen a moderate negative impact. Those figures were roughly on par with national averages.

A quarter of small businesses decreased the number of paid employees during the previous week, the survey found, while nearly half had cut employees’ hours. Overall effects varied by sector, with the hospitality, health care and retail sectors generally being hardest hit. Businesses in manufacturing, professional services and wholesale trade saw less severe impacts.

Small businesses accessed aid programs with moderate success, the data show. Eighty percent of businesses had applied for loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, a forgivable loan program championed by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and 63.5 percent received them.

That is a significantly higher rate than most states, with only 38 percent of businesses receiving PPP loans nationally, the survey found. Another 26 percent of Maine businesses had applied for Economic Injury Disaster Loans, and 10 percent had received them, a figure roughly similar to national averages.

But the survey also hinted at several potential problems for small businesses that might linger even as the state reopens. Slightly more than half of businesses experienced disruptions in their supply chains during the previous week. Additionally, 44 percent of businesses did not have enough cash on hand to sustain operations for more than a month.

About 10 percent of businesses had missed a loan payment since the crisis began, while 19 percent missed other scheduled payments, such as rent, utilities or payroll. In the health care and social assistance sector, those figures were higher, with nearly 20 percent of businesses having missed a loan payment and one third having missed other scheduled payments.

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, small businesses employed about 57 percent of the Maine workforce, according to the Small Business Administration, among the highest rates of any state. The census data release came on the heels of a survey from the Maine Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives which found that small businesses expected, on average, losses of more than 50 percent this year.

Restaurants in 12 counties were permitted to open on Monday, with more establishments set to open statewide on June 1 as Maine continues to reopen under a gradual plan from Gov. Janet Mills.

Watch: Janet Mills outlines her plan to reopen

 


Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

You may also like