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Data: Goldman Sachs; Chart: Axios Visuals

The positive news about a possible coronavirus vaccine could prove to be a negative for many struggling small business owners, as economists worry that it could reduce the urgency for Congress to pass a new fiscal relief package.

Why it matters: A new survey from Goldman Sachs through its 10,000 Small Businesses program provided first to Axios finds that more than half of small business owners (52%) have stopped paying themselves in a bid to keep their businesses afloat and four in 10 (42%) already have begun laying off employees or cutting worker pay.

  • 33% have dipped into personal savings to stay operational.
  • 28% say the legislative uncertainty has caused them to consider closing their business.

What's next: Moving forward, 38% of those surveyed said they will have to lay off more employees or cut employee compensation and 20% said they will not be able to pay their commercial rent through the end of the year without additional help from Congress.

.The big picture: The number of businesses that say they are unsure whether or not they will be able to survive reached its highest level in November since the survey began.

Watch this space: 59% of business owners surveyed say their revenue has been negatively impacted.

  • 86.5% of those whose revenue has been negatively impacted attribute it to changing customer behavior, while 44% say the decline in revenue is due to more restrictive state and local regulations.

Black business owners have struggled even more mightily, with 61% saying they have forgone paying themselves as a result of congressional inaction and 57% saying that less than half of their pre-COVID revenue has returned.

What we're hearing: "The economy is dependent on fiscal support to sustain momentum in the near term and to generate reflation in the longer term," Eric Winograd, senior economist at AllianceBernstein, said in an email detailing his expectations for the U.S. after this month's elections.

  • "This electoral outcome is the one that most jeopardizes the prospect of fiscal stimulus over both time horizons and therefore is the one that is most threatening to the economic outlook."
  • "With monetary policy largely bled dry, fiscal policy is the only game in town when it comes to managing the economy.  That means that fiscal stimulus is critical to the economic outlook."

Go deeper

Wall Street pencils in virus variants as latest economic risk

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Wall Street is pinning its bets of an economic rebound this year on mass vaccinations and a virus brought under control, but new coronavirus strains threaten that sunny outlook, a number of firms are warning.

Why it matters: None downgraded growth forecasts because of the variants, but they’re acknowledging there’s a new asterisk to the anticipated economic recovery.

Updated 52 mins ago - Science

Volcanic eruption in Tonga caused "significant" damage

This satellite image of the eruption on Jan. 15 taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite operated by Japan Meteorological Agency and released by National Institute of Information and Communications Technology (NICT). Photo: NICT via AP

Significant damage has been reported in Tonga following an undersea volcanic eruption on Saturday, which covered the Pacific nation in ash and cut off communication lines.

Driving the news: The eruption triggered tsunami warnings across Tonga's islands and in other regions, including the West Coast of the U.S. and New Zealand.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Trump dogs "dull" DeSantis ahead of potential 2024 matchup

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Donald Trump is trashing Ron DeSantis in private as an ingrate with a "dull personality" and no realistic chance of beating him in a potential 2024 showdown, according to sources who've recently talked to the former president about the Florida governor.

Why it matters: The two are among the most popular Republicans in the country, and as the former president eyes another run in 2024, he's irked by DeSantis' popularity and refusal to rule out running against him.

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