Just over a year into the pandemic, small businesses are still struggling to regain their footing. Just last week, the Senate offered a helping hand, voting to extend the $718 billion Paycheck Protection Program until May 31. And as vaccination rates rise and Covid-19 restrictions ease, a return to normalcy seems within reach.
Before that can happen, though, small business owners will need to overcome another obstacle: getting their employees vaccinated. Many seem to be tackling it head on.
According to a recent survey of more than 3,300 small business owners by Reimagine Main Street, in partnership with the U.S. Black Chambers and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, 64% of respondents say it’s very important that their employees get vaccinated. Moreover, 63% are willing to encourage and incentivize employees to get their shots. Close to half (45%) plan to motivate their workers to do so by giving them paid time off—for AAPI employers, that number is 53%.
“These are very difficult times for the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, and we need to make it to the end of this pandemic so the recovery can begin,” says Chiling Tong, president and CEO of the National Asian Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurship. “AAPI small business owners can lead this effort by championing the Covid-19 vaccines.”
“These are very difficult times for the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, and we need to make it to the end of this pandemic so the recovery can begin.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that between 70% and 85% of Americans will need to receive the vaccine for the country to achieve herd immunity. Then, and only then, can businesses fully reopen. When small businesses employ more than 60 million U.S. adults, or 18% of the population, according to the Small Business Association, they stand to play a significant role in getting the economy back on track.
It seems they’re up for the challenge: Nearly one in five (19%) intend to mandate that employees get the vaccine. Perhaps most importantly, 19% of Black business owners say they’ll pay workers bonuses for getting vaccinated. Such an incentive, says Ron Busby, president and CEO of the U.S. Black Chambers, won’t just benefit small businesses’ workers, but their communities, as well.
“We know the most important thing we can do to have people overcome vaccine hesitancy is to hear from trusted messengers like small businesses in their community.”
“Given the leadership roles Black small business owners have in their communities, it is crucial that they champion the vaccine so communities can reopen and recover faster,” he says. “Employees often look to their employers for information so business owners have the potential to persuade many Black adults, especially young adults, to receive the vaccine.”
To further this effort, Reimagine Main Street has launched a nationwide vaccine education and outreach campaign with more than 400 small business owners and leaders.
In a public event announcing the initiative, Kristina Schake, counselor to the secretary of health and human services and the Biden administration’s lead for public education efforts said, “We know the most important thing we can do to have people overcome vaccine hesitancy is to hear from trusted messengers like small businesses in their community.”
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