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Puerto Rico small businesses fare worst in U.S. Census survey

By on May 15, 2020

Nearly half of respondents cut employees amid COVID-19 pandemic

SAN JUAN — The U.S. Census Bureau has begun conducting what it calls an experimental Small Business Pulse Survey to measure the changes in conditions on small businesses during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In its random sampling of nonfarm, single-location employer businesses with one to 499 employees stateside and in Puerto Rico, the island’s industries fared worst.

The Census explains that the survey is intended to provide information about how businesses’ operations and finances are being affected as well as measures of overall well-being and expectations for recovery.

The weekly survey, which complements Census data by providing information on participation in small business-specific initiatives such as the Paycheck Protection Program, reveals that Puerto Rico has received the least number of those federal loans, which can be forgiven by up to 75 percent if businesses keep their employees.

Of the Puerto Rico businesses surveyed, 65.4 percent claimed the impact of the infection prevention measures had a “large negative effect,” a result that is 14 percent higher than any state.

Business Pulse includes information on location closings, changes in employment, disruptions in the supply chain, the use of federal assistance programs, and expectations concerning future operations.

In Puerto Rico, 46.3 percent of small businesses reported cutting employees between April 26 and May 2, and “77 percent reported closing locations during at least part of the week — easily the highest share of any state or territory,” the Washington Post said about the island’s results, adding that “more than two-thirds of businesses there reported supply-chain disruptions, easily the highest rate in the nation. Fewer than 10 percent of businesses on the island said they have enough cash to cover three months or more of operations.”

Consisting of 16 questions, the 5-minute survey reaches close to one million businesses “split across a 9-week rotation to reduce burden and lessen survey fatigue,” according to the agency.

“The results from this survey will be particularly useful to policymakers as they seek to address some of the challenges faced by small businesses. In addition, the information will be useful to businesses making decisions and researchers studying the impact and responses to COVID-19,” the Census explains on its site.

See the the emailed questionnaire and the Small Business Pulse Survey’s results.

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