Giving Compass' Take:

• Small businesses contribute to local city culture but require serious recovery funding to sustain that culture and economic development in communities during COVID-19. 

• What is the role of donors and local activism to help keep small businesses going?  

• Learn more about how small businesses will survive through this pandemic. 

Small businesses are a crucial part of any city’s economy, accounting for 44% of all U.S. economic activity. They also enrich the unique culture and spirit vital to attract residents and visitors to hotspots like Nashville. Amid stay-at-home orders and the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, cities have stepped in to help small businesses, artists and other cultural groups stay afloat. Some have enacted policies like rent forgiveness, while others have created direct assistance through loans and grants, acting as a bridge to larger federal stimulus payments.

"Not every city is going to compete for an HQ2," Jenn Steinfeld, director of entrepreneurship and economic development for the National League of Cities, told Smart Cities Dive. She explained that, for some cities, the cultural offerings of a city are just as beneficial.

"The restaurants and shops that employ from the community and invest in staying put in the community help make [some cities] what they are," she said.​​

Because small businesses tend to have limited cash on hand, they’re particularly vulnerable to the sustained economic slowdown from shelter-in-place orders — which the federal government recognized in its most recent federal stimulus package.

The $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that passed through Congress in March offered a $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program through the Small Business Association (SBA) to help businesses pay employees and expenses during the pandemic. The White House has pushed another $250 billion for that program, but it has been held up in Congress as Democrats seek additional aid for hospitals and state and local governments.

Recovery efforts also afford cities a chance to reflect on the types of businesses or workers that are unique to them, but may otherwise fall through the cracks. There's been concern that many independent businesses may fail, leaving cities looking more homogenous.

Read the full article about small business recovery plans by Jason Plautz at Smart Cities Dive.