In the United States, there are approximately 30.7 million small businesses employing as many as 60 million Americans.
According to the Small Business Administration, from 2016 to 2019 just under 2 million new small businesses were created and as a result, 3.1 million jobs. However, due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, small businesses have been hit exceptionally hard, as more than 41 million Americans have lost their jobs in just 10 weeks.
Across the nation, non-essential businesses had to shut their doors to help flatten the curve. While it may be essential from a public health perspective to do everything necessary to limit the spread of this virus, we cannot overlook the devastating effect that mitigation efforts have had on small businesses.
Small merchants, financial institutions, and the electronic payments industry all need each other in the best of times, and even more so now.
Customers are now cautious about close, personal interactions and as a result many people are changing how they shop. Electronic payments have helped both customers and small businesses to adapt. Customers are placing online orders, using curbside pick-up, or paying over the phone to continue supporting small businesses.
Thankfully, financial institutions and payments networks made investments long before this crisis that will help keep customers safe and their funds secure. Tools like Secure Remote Commerce, EMV-enabled payment cards and payment terminals, and the expansion of contactless transactions make it easier for businesses to keep making sales during this time.
As millions of businesses across the United States have closed, the demand for access to loans has grown exponentially. Financial institutions have worked diligently to provide relief to their communities.
Local institutions like community banks and credit unions have and will continue to play a major role in supporting the disbursement of loans as part of the Paycheck Protection Program. This program has appropriated more than $659 billion to help small businesses, including $60 billion set aside for small- and medium-size community banks and credit unions.
As this crisis continues to rip through our economy, these institutions will continue to serve on the frontline of protecting our communities’ businesses. Furthermore, a recent analysis by Barron’s asserts that “smaller lenders were responsible for almost all of the credit provided to small businesses under the Paycheck Protection Program through April 22.”
According to the data from the Federal Reserve, the total amount of commercial and industrial loans held on banks’ balance sheets increased by $153 billion since April, with approximately $130 billion of that coming from smaller commercial banks.
These same small banks and credit unions are in turn heavily dependent on the revenue generated using electronic payments at small businesses — if small businesses are not making sales, community institutions feel the effect immediately due to the loss of interchange revenue they would otherwise receive.
In addition to their heavy investments in secure contactless payments, card networks have also stepped up during this time of crisis. Visa’s Back to Business tool allows customers to find small businesses that are up and running in their area, by identifying those that have recently processed a Visa transaction.
In addition, the Visa Foundation pledged more than $200 million in support of small and micro enterprises that have been financially harmed by this public health crisis.
Mastercard has also pledged $250 million in fintech support over the next five years to support staff and protect transactions, while the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth and Impact Fund will focus on philanthropic grants and collaboration with experts around the world to best support small business.
As the fight against the coronavirus wages on, financial institutions of all sizes will play an essential role in protecting customers and providing critical resources to small businesses across the country. Through the crisis, all of us have received yet another reminder as to the importance of liquidity.
While electronic payments can do a lot to give small (and large) business quicker access to their cash, we support congressional efforts to refine existing cash support programs so that small businesses can better allocate assistance to expenses crucial to their continued existence.
Furthermore, we hope that in future stimulus packages, Congress will also consider additional forms of liquidity support for small business during what unfortunately looks like a protracted recovery.