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Small-business survey respondents oppose May 1 reopening; schools to remain closed

Staff Report //April 22, 2020//

Small-business survey respondents oppose May 1 reopening; schools to remain closed

Staff Report //April 22, 2020//

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Over half of the small-business owners surveyed by the Businesses for Responsible Tax Reform — co-chaired by Frank Knapp, CEO of the S.C. Small Business Chamber of Commerce — are opposed to reopening the economy on May 1.

During a snap survey (.pdf) conducted from April 17 to April 20, 58% of 530 small-business owners across the nation agreed that May 1 was too early to open, while 64% felt that the government should prioritize stopping the infection over jump-starting the economy, according to a news release. Respondents tended to rely on scientists and health care professionals for social distancing counsel at 71%, while 15% trusted the administration’s guidance the most and 13% put most of their trust in state and local government.

About half of the respondents who have shuttered their businesses because of COVID-19 reported that they were hesitant to reopen by May 1 out of concern for their employees’ and customers’ safety, according to the release. Of the 68% of respondents who reported applying for the Paycheck Protection Program, about 15% reported that they had received the money, and 28% had been approved.

“Small-business owners are hurting from the economic fallout of COVID-19, but they are clearly more worried about getting this pandemic under control than a wholesale opening up of the economy on an artificial deadline,” Knapp said in the release.

On Monday, S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster removed restrictions on some nonessential businesses. Some retail businesses that had been restricted from in-house commerce in an April 3 executive order — including furniture and home-furnishings stores, florists, flea markets, book and arts merchants, sporting goods stores, clothing accessories and leather goods merchants, and department stores — were able to reopen after 5 p.m. Monday.

Today, McMaster announced that state public schools would remain closed for the rest of the school year. S.C. Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman joined McMaster for the announcement and said it was the right decision.

"In this very historic pandemic, we have been able to carry on really good instruction" online, Spearman said. She said she spoke with around 4,000 teachers in a conference call a few days ago, with 80% reporting they were pleased with the quality of online instruction.