Post-election federal stimulus a top priority for small, medium employers

With the yet-undecided 2020 presidential election as context, a new survey of small and medium employers (500 employees or less) clearly shows that the economic, pandemic-driven pain is as acute now as it’s ever been.

While the initial rounds of federal economic support provided stability, employers say, no matter who wins the White House, an added layer of help would be critical for them to remain afloat—especially as the latest wave of COVID washes across the country. And they have very specific feelings about what any new stimulus package should offer.

According to new research from Paychex, Inc., a software-as-a-service provider of HR, payroll, benefits and insurance solutions, 49% of employers surveyed strongly support a stimulus package that would waive the penalty for early retirement withdrawals, followed closely by tax credits for personal protective equipment (PPE) (46%) and liability protection for COVID-19-related lawsuits (46%). Also, 44% strongly support a second round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans.

Also see: Paid leave, minimum wage among 2020 election winners

“For many businesses, the first round of federal stimulus made the difference between staying open and closing their doors, between keeping their staff on payroll and being forced to make layoffs,” says Martin Mucci, Paychex president and CEO. “As COVID-19 cases once again begin to rise throughout the country, a second stimulus bill will provide enhanced stability for businesses as they plan for the future.”

“For many businesses, the first round of federal stimulus made the difference between staying open and closing their doors.” – Martin Mucci

In terms of the main election-year issues, COVID-19 response ranked highest on the list for business owners (63%), followed by healthcare and tax reform (both 55%). When asked about their current top challenge, businesses of all sizes are struggling to cope with economic uncertainty and public health uncertainty—40% said each of those issues are very challenging—followed closely by finding new customers (37%).

Related: How employers are recruiting in the age of the CARES Act

Despite those challenges, 63% of respondents have ample cash reserved to survive the remainder of the pandemic, and 72% agreed they have the resources to implement and enforce measures to keep employees and customers safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“Understandably, COVID-19 response is the most important issue on the minds of small business owners as we headed into the election this week,” says Thad Inge, senior manager of government relations at Paychex, adding that the uncertainty caused by the pandemic has also translated into prolonged financial hardship for many businesses.

“Additional government stimulus is essential to the stability of many U.S. small businesses and could include a variety of measures that businesses find helpful,” he says. “PPP will likely be a centerpiece of any additional stimulus packages, with Congress looking to target the forgivable loans towards small businesses that need it the most.”

Inge explains that, across the board, businesses are feeling the weight of the economic uncertainty brought by the pandemic, and that could cost them on the talent front as well.

“Employees are looking for leadership, support and flexibility from their employers right now, and if they aren’t receiving that, they may begin to look for other opportunities,” he says.

Paychex will host a free webinar at 1:30 p.m. EST Nov. 20, featuring experts from its government relations and compliance team, to help business owners understand the implications of the top post-election issues on their business.

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