The Small Business Credit Survey (SBCS), a collaboration of all 12 Federal Reserve Banks, provides timely information about small business conditions to policymakers, service providers, and lenders. In 2020, the survey reached more than 15,000 small businesses,1 gathering insights about the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on small businesses, as well as business performance and credit conditions.

The survey was fielded in September and October 2020, approximately six months after the onset of the pandemic. The timing of the survey is important to the interpretation of the results. At the time of the survey, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) authorized by the CARES Act had recently closed, and prospects for additional stimulus funding were uncertain. Additionally, many government-mandated business closures had been lifted as the number of new COVID-19 cases plateaued in advance of a significant increase in cases by the year’s end.2

The 2020 survey findings highlight the magnitude of the pandemic’s impact on small businesses and the challenges they anticipate as they navigate changes in the business environment. The 2020 SBCS finds that few firms avoided the negative impacts of the pandemic. Furthermore, the findings reveal disparities in experiences and outcomes across firm and owner demographics, including race and ethnicity, industry, and firm size. While this report aggregates data on all small employer firms, it includes some details for select demographics. Future publications will explore the impact of the pandemic on different subsets of businesses.

  1. The Small Business Credit Survey collects information from both employer and nonemployer firms. The 2020 survey yielded 4,531 responses from nonemployers; the findings for nonemployers will be explored in a separate report. Additionally, the survey yielded approximately 1,000 responses from permanently closed firms and new businesses that had not yet begun operations.
  2. Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/data/new-cases.