U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Suzanne Clark told Axios during a virtual event Thursday that employers could face massive liability concerns by re-opening their businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, calling it "a second economic risk."

Why it matters: Governors nationwide are looking to reopen non-essential businesses following weeks of social distancing that have handicapped the economy. The lifting of restrictions are bringing non-essential workers back out of their homes and increasing their exposure to the coronavirus.

What she's saying: Clark, who leads the world's largest business federation, said that small businesses are not only anxious to reopen, but also anxious about reopening — especially with respect to the litigation risks.

"For example, we're asking CEOs to operate in a totally different, unprecedented time. After years of saying don't discriminate on the basis of health and age, now we're saying protect your vulnerable populations. When we usually say keep health data private, now we're saying you want to make some things public so that we can trace people who have this virus or understand who has immunity.
So when you have a whole new playbook, there are unfortunately a small number of the plaintiffs' bar who really go hard and look for liability. ... And so it scares business owners that there could be a second big economic risk coming."

Go deeper

Updated Jul 28, 2020 - Axios Events

Watch: Small business recovery during the pandemic

On Tuesday July 28, Axios Media Trends author Sara Fischer hosted the fifth of a six-event series on small business recovery across America, focusing on how female-led small businesses have innovated and used digital tools to pivot during the pandemic, featuring Nevada Sen. Jacky Rosen, National Association of Women Business Owners CEO Jen Earle and Sameka Jenkins, owner of Carolima’s Lowcountry Cuisine.

Sen. Rosen discussed her bipartisan work on helping to secure more funds for Nevada business owners, as well as how the hospitality industry in the state has pivoted.

  • How Nevada has innovated hospitality industry: "One thing that [Nevada] knows how to do is create an experience. [Casinos] have been designing this very cool Plexiglas [screen] that might go between slot machines or be used in restaurants...I think that some of those things may be exported to hospitality across the nation."
  • On working with small business owners to help them secure loans: "We're a large state in size, but small in population with about three million. So we're able to know each other, work together, and that's what's going to make this a success...Sole proprietors need to know that they can get these funds."

Jen Earle highlighted the obstacles that women encounter in securing loans and navigating unequal distribution of labor at home.

  • On unique challenges for women business owners: "Access to capital for women is a bigger issue...They've [started businesses] by bootstrapping, by utilizing credit cards, by using personal funding...They don't obviously have relationships with bankers."
  • How small businesses are central to their communities: "They support the nonprofits that are local. They support youth school programs, the soccer programs, things like that that really keep the economy vibrant."

Sameka Jenkins discussed her experience as a small business owner and how Carolima’s Lowcountry Cuisine has utilized social media to stay connected to their community.

  • How her business has leaned on digital tools: "[We've used] social media like Facebook, Instagram. We started doing live videos at the start of the pandemic...we've actually brought people into our home virtually and we've taught them how to prepare certain dishes."
  • How social media can keep members of a community close: "I think everyone's pivoted in their own way...For us, the videos were very helpful. Social media was very helpful...I think at this time, people want to see that transparency. People want you to share. People want to be a part of your lives. And they just want to know that, you know, we're all in this together."

Thank you Facebook for sponsoring this event.

Women's business group CEO: Access to capital an issue for female business owners during pandemic

Female business owners often have less access to capital because women tend lack relationships with bankers, National Association of Women Business Owners CEO Jen Earle said on Tuesday at an Axios virtual event.

What she's saying: "Women are naturally risk-averse, and so a lot of times they don't want to take on huge chunks of debt to make their business grow. "They've done it kind of by bootstrapping, by utilizing their credit cards, by using personal funding. "

South Carolina caterer: Loans kept many businesses afloat during COVID pandemic

Axios' Sara Fischer (L) and Sameka Jenkins, owner Carolima’s Lowcountry Cuisine. Photo: Axios screenshot.

Many small businesses would have gone under without financial aid during widespread closures caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Carolima’s Lowcountry Cuisine owner Sameka Jenkins said at an Axios virtual event Tuesday.

Zoom in: Jenkins said her South Carolina-based company received an Economic Injury Disaster Loan from the Small Business Administration to ease the financial effects of the crisis.

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