US business groups call for fresh stimulus as CEO confidence improves

US business groups are turning up the heat on Washington to provide new stimulus funding, even as they report a partial recovery in economic confidence.

The US Chamber of Commerce told members of Congress on Monday that fresh relief was “desperately needed” and that failure to pass a meaningful stimulus package “risks a double-dip recession”. 

The Chamber joined 25 other industry associations in writing to House and Senate leaders urging immediate relief, warning that more than a third of small businesses had reported that their revenues were falling again as Covid-19 cases spike across the country. 

Congress should fund a second Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses, the group said, without weighing in on the debate between Democrats and Republicans on how large or small such a stimulus should be. 

Longer term relief in the form of a small business lending facility would also be needed next year, it added, saying that one in four small businesses said they needed more capital to survive the next six months.

The Business Roundtable, which represents larger companies in Washington, separately on Monday said 83 per cent of chief executives saw a fresh federal stimulus package as a top political priority.

A bipartisan group of senators is pushing for a $908bn package of measures that includes $288bn in small business aid, $180bn in benefits for the unemployed and $160bn for cash-strapped state and local governments.

While Republican and Democratic leaders have indicated support for a stimulus deal, hurdles remain and the political prospects for action remain uncertain. 

“Further delay in delivering relief will hurt millions of Americans and lead to more damage to our economy,” warned Josh Bolten, chief executive of the Business Roundtable, on Monday.

The Business Roundtable’s latest survey of chief executives showed some recovery in sentiment over the past three months, however. Its gauge of CEOs’ plans for capital spending and hiring and their expectations for sales over the next six months rose 22.2 points to 86.2 in the past quarter, putting it slightly above its historical average.

Mr Bolten cautioned that leading employers remained concerned about recent rises in coronavirus cases, and the survey showed hiring plans recovering more gradually. 

The 26-group business coalition told House and Senate leaders that Census Bureau data showed nearly half of small businesses expected it to take more than six months for their operations to recover to normal levels, while 8 per cent expect never to see such a recovery. 

The Business Roundtable said just over a quarter of CEOs say conditions have recovered or will be back to pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year, while 41 per cent expect a recovery by the end of 2021 and a third say conditions will not recover until 2022 or later.

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