Results of a new survey conducted by the National Federation of Independent Business found that small business owners are growing more anxious about the future as the coronavirus nightmare drags on. With applications for the Paycheck Protection Program having closed on Saturday, and a new COVID-19 relief bill still being fought over in Congress, they have every reason to worry.

The most recent survey, conducted from July 20-21 by the NFIB Research Center, found that 71 percent of small business owners have used the entirety of their PPP loans. The remaining 29 percent, the survey says, “are likely not far behind.” Twenty-one percent of PPP recipients said they anticipate having to lay off employees, a number almost identical to the results of the July 7 survey.

The most concerning number: 46 percent of PPP borrowers anticipate needing further financial support over the next 12 months. That number hasn’t budged since July 7, an indication that businesses are still struggling to get back on track.

Sales, however, have rebounded for most businesses. Almost half reported that business was back to where it was pre-COVID-19, with 32 percent saying sales were between 50 and 74 percent of their 2019 levels. Sales were down by more than half for 21 percent of respondents.

“Economic conditions are putting significant stress on the financial health of many small business owners struggling to balance lower sales, and expenses, and longer-term sustainability,” the survey reads.

Typical of the NFIB’s surveys, most respondents do not expect conditions to improve to former levels this year. Over half of business owners, 52 percent, expect a return to normal to take place sometime in 2021. Another quarter expect economic conditions to not fully recover until 2022 or later.

The NFIB has been on somewhat of a media blitz as of late, urging Congress to get its act together or risk a mass failing of small businesses.

In an op-ed for CNN Business published on July 27, NFIB president and CEO Brad Close suggested five possible strategies Congress can take to protect American employers:

  • Targeted financial assistance in the form of a second PPP loan
  • Liability protections for businesses to prevent lawsuits from sick employees and customers
  • Tax relief (also suggested by a group of business associations in a letter to Congress last week)
  • Not extending the $600-a-week expanded unemployment insurance payment plan
  • Providing regulatory relief, like ending federal paid-leave mandates when they expire at the end of the year

“Few things would be more devastating to families and communities than the collapse of small business,” Close wrote. “Small businesses employ nearly half of all Americans and have accounted for 62% of net new private-sector job creation since 2009.”

Unfortunately, Close’s facts may prove to be no match for the morass that is American politics. According to some of the world’s largest news outlets on Friday, talks between Republicans and Democrats had either turned sour, stalled, or fallen apart.