An increasing number of U.S. small businesses plan to lay off workers after using a federal coronavirus relief loan as many states are slowing or changing reopening plans amid a spike in cases, a new survey shows.

About 22% of firms that received Paycheck Protection Program assistance have fired workers or expect to lay off one or more workers once their loan runs out, up from 14% last month, according to a National Federation of Independent Business survey of its members. The PPP, a key federal stimulus program, was meant to keep workers on payrolls during the pandemic.

“As owners finish using their loan, more are finding that economic conditions are unable to support current staffing levels,” the NFIB said in the survey released Friday.

Most surveyed businesses that have requested a PPP loan have received it, with 56% of borrowers reporting they have spent all of their loan funds and the remaining 44% likely not far behind, the NFIB said.

The PPP, the centerpiece of the $2.2 trillion virus relief package enacted in March, has approved 4.9 million loans totaling $521.1 billion as of Thursday night, according to the Small Business Administration, which is running the program with the Treasury Department. The agencies credit the program for supporting more than 51 million jobs across the U.S. during the pandemic.

The small-business survey results add to evidence that the outlook for the labor market could worsen in the coming weeks as stimulus aid expires and coronavirus cases spike in states including Florida, Texas and Arizona. Large companies have also announced plans to reduce their workforce, with firms such as Wells Fargo and United Airlines Holdings preparing to cut thousands of jobs.


Economic conditions have improved for many small business owners during the past month as they got financial aid, but the firms hardest hit by the pandemic will need more help, the NFIB said. Of the small businesses that have applied for a PPP or Economic Injury Disaster Loan or both, 46% anticipate needing additional financial assistance during the next 12 months, the survey found.

Small-business owners face challenges re-opening and operating their business as the pandemic continues, with 59% saying it’s very or moderately difficult to stock up on hand sanitizer and 40% having trouble getting enough face coverings, according to the survey.

Proposals have emerged in Congress to use any leftover PPP funding as targeted aid for small businesses that have been hammered by the pandemic or left out of the program. Those proposals are expected to be part of negotiations for a new relief package later this month.

The NFIB survey was conducted by email July 6-7 with a random sample of the group’s membership database of about 300,000 small businesses owners, with 615 usable responses.