State business owners report they are adapting to the realities of COVID-19, however many indicate that they need additional support from the state and federal governments, including financing and technical assistance, according to an online survey of more than 2,000 state businesses and nonprofits.
The Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University conducted the survey in November 2020, to examine how businesses have revised operations during the pandemic to conduct business, serve customers and support employees.
Business and nonprofit organizations report that they are taking the necessary steps to ensure the safety of customers and workers and increasing the use of digital technologies to conduct business. Survey respondents are interested in obtaining technical assistance to improve social media and online marketing in the coming months. Many have already or plan to increase digital operations in the next three to six months.
A large majority of business owners report they have instituted safety requirements such as mandatory mask wearing for staff and patrons, frequent cleaning and capacity limits. Uncertainty about the future remains a major challenge for nine in 10 businesses and organizations.
Other key findings in the survey include:
The research project was led by Dr. Carl Van Horn, distinguished professor and director of the Heldrich Center, and Jessica Starace, research associate.
“Small businesses benefited from the financial support provided by federal and state government programs, but many still need technical assistance to transition to digital marketing and service delivery,” Van Horn said. “The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) and the New Jersey Small Business Development Center (NJSBDC) are the organizations that businesses will most likely turn to for help.”
To date, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) has helped more than 55,000 businesses statewide through various grant, loan and assistance programs.
New Jersey Secretary of State Tahesha Way said the survey demonstrates the importance of the partnership between the New Jersey Business Action Center (NJBAC) and the NJSBDC, which supports both existing businesses and New Jersey residents interested in starting new businesses in these challenging times.
“The two offices (the NJBAC and the NJSBDC) work together with the goal of finding the right mix of tools and resources to aid New Jersey businesses,” said Secretary Way.
The NJBAC, part of the New Jersey Department of State, partially funds the NJSBDC and helped distribute the survey to businesses across the state. The NJBAC provides businesses with critical technical and logistical assistance and one-on-one support through the live chat at Business.NJ.gov and the Business Helpline at 1-800-JERSEY-7.
“Since COVID-19 upended our lives, the NJBAC has helped 59,000 businesses find the information they need – from financing and grant opportunities to understanding how to operate in this new environment,” Secretary Way added. “The center’s team of experts works each day to help businesses adjust and overcome many challenges, helping them to find innovative ways to not only survive, but to thrive.”
“New Jersey businesses have responded admirably to the hardships caused by the pandemic, but I know many are still hurting,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “Through our newly passed economic recovery package, we have $50 million in additional aid for small businesses that we are preparing to deploy to help those in need, and we stand ready to offer technical and logistical assistance to ensure that those needs are met as well.”
The non-probability, online survey, conducted in English and Spanish, was administered between Nov. 4 and Dec. 1, 2020. It was distributed via government agencies, industry and chamber associations, and social media channels. Respondents were distributed across northern, central, and southern New Jersey. Over 700 of the businesses responding are owned by women; 400 are minority-owned. Most respondent businesses employ less than 10 workers and vary across all sectors of the state’s economy.
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