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Arkansas Ranks 2nd for Most Pandemic-Proof Small Businesses

 July 07, 2021

During the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses have been hit hard, having to adapt to an unprecedented situation that changed the basic operations of many industries. Small businesses, in particular, have been buffeted by the pandemic, and they have been forced to navigate unfamiliar waters.

With less foot traffic, many small businesses had to pivot to online sales or adopt other creative practices, such as curbside and to-go services for restaurants. Even with these measures, small businesses across the United States have felt the crunch over the past year.

In the 2020 Facebook and Small Business Roundtable U.S. State of Small Business report, 33 percent of the businesses surveyed said they expect that it will take six months or longer for their operations to return to normal, while 14 percent of businesses did not expect to last beyond six months if their current circumstances continued. Over the past year, more U.S. business establishments have closed than in recent years. The U.S. Federal Reserve Board reported that business closures, normally totaling 600,000 per year, were up by 200,000 in 2020.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, as the U.S. economy begins to pick up steam. Across the nation, industries are ramping up production and businesses are settling on firmer footing.

Despite the difficulties posed by the past year, Arkansas was recently ranked no. 2 for states with the most pandemic-proof small businesses. Personal finance website WalletHub compared all 50 states and the District of Columbia’s small business environment, determining which states’ small businesses were the most pandemic-proof and had the greatest potential to bounce back.

When determining the state rankings, WalletHub looked at multiple small business factors, including each state’s business environment and workforce support, and the state’s impact and access to resources. Arkansas was ranked no. 5 both for its business environment and workforce support and for the impact and resource access it provided to local small businesses.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, helping small businesses has been top of mind for Gov. Asa Hutchinson and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. Gov. Hutchinson asked the Small Business Administration to declare the entire state a disaster zone in March 2020, allowing businesses to apply for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. Under Gov. Hutchinson’s direction, the Arkansas Department of Commerce also made funding available to businesses through the Community Development Block Grant program and through the Quick-Action Closing Fund.

A critical program for businesses during this trying time was the Arkansas Ready for Business Grant Program. Administered by the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, this program provided federal CARES Act funding to businesses and nonprofits throughout the state to mitigate the impact of health and safety costs imposed by the pandemic.

These efforts have made a significant impact on businesses, reflected in the state’s unemployment figures. Arkansas’ unemployment rate has been far below the national average during the pandemic. In May 2021, Arkansas’ unemployment rate was 4.4 percent, compared to 5.8 percent at the national level.

Arkansas’ small businesses have the greatest potential to bounce back because they have the least to bounce back from. Arkansas never shut down during the pandemic and kept working with safeguards but is now prepared to fully dive back into work mode.