This data reflects insights gathered from a series of research studies focused on how SMB owners are faring during the COVID pandemic. The Harris Poll teamed with TriNet, a comprehensive HR Solutions provider for SMBs. These initiatives focus on the state of SMB beyond TriNet’s own customer base and provides an insightful narrative as to how SMBs have coped and adapted during these challenging months.

While awareness of government programs to help SMBs like the CARES Act and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is high among surveyed participants, many don’t know what it does – or doesn’t – provide. Half of respondents say aspects of the program are confusing, especially the tax implications.

  • 95% aware of the CARES Act overall (either by its official name or as the $2 trillion stimulus bill for COVID-19 relief)
  • 83% aware of the Paycheck Protection Program
  • 54% plan to take advantage of funding
  • 27% aren’t sure if they are eligible, or don’t yet know enough about the program to say if they plan to apply

Additionally, regarding the Paycheck Protection Loans:

SMB optimism at implementation of the PPP fell upon initial confusion, but quickly rebounded:

By April 6, 4 in 10 had tried to apply for funding, and 1 in 5 of those were unable to complete the process; and 6 in 10 feel that the loans are ‘difficult to access’.

Confidence in continued government support reflects volatility – closely tied to the ups and downs of the 24×7 news cycle and confusion regarding stimulus programs and availability of funds.

In order to adapt to the current situation, SMBs are making strategic operational choices, including cutting costs, in order to invest in the long-term success of their business. As of April 10 – 12, businesses are  making the following changes:

  • 46% have reduced employee hours
  • 40% of business leaders have taken a lower salary for themselves
  • 34% have reduced marketing/advertising spend
  • 32% have worked with creditors to reduce obligations
  • 29% have canceled services
  • 26% have laid off employees
  • 19% have reduced inventory
  • 13% have furloughed employees

SMBs are strategically investing in infrastructure, employees, and customers and community. Of the 78% of SMBs who have made strategic investments, they’ve focused on:



For this research, TriNet teamed with The Harris Poll to conduct a series of ten online surveys from April 3 to May 8 among small business leaders in U.S. companies with 5 to 249 employees. Between 150-200 responses were collected for each of the ten waves. Business leaders were qualified as either owners/partners or C-level executives.

View the complete whitepaper.


Amber Broughton

Managing Director

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