Nearing the end of its first week, the government shutdown is already taking a toll on Main Street.
Small-business owners and entrepreneurs from around the country have started to feel the ripple effects of the closure — some left waiting for contract updates, some left waiting for loans, and some left waiting to see whether customers are going to keep walking through their doors.
On Sunday, Republican and Democratic leaders appeared no closer to striking an agreement, with both sides turning their attention to the looming debt-ceiling deadline rather than the absence of an amenable spending bill. Obama administration officials and House Republicans each say they are waiting on the opposition to offer concessions in order to kick-start negotiations.
In the meantime, here are five ways the shutdown is hurting small businesses.
— SBA programs shuttered
When the government went dark last Monday, so did the Small Business Administration (SBA). Until it reopens, small-business owners will not have access to training and counseling programs like SCORE and Small Business Development Centers, international trade services and government contracting aid.
Most importantly, though, the closure has forced the SBA to stop processing applications for government-backed, small-business loans, leaving many employers waiting with no end in sight for the capital they need to start, expand or even save their businesses.
“You start looking for where small businesses get long-term loans, and the SBA is it,” Tony Wilkinson, president and chief executive of the National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders, said in an interview. “And the government shutdown turns off that spigot.”
— IRS closure halts loans, too
Small-business owners seeking SBA-backed loans are not the only ones thrown into a holding pattern by the shutdown. Many banks and other conventional lenders rely on the Internal Revenue Service to confirm income-related information for prospective borrowers, and with the agency closed, there are no federal workers to conduct those checks.
While that is expected to have the most severe impact on individuals seeking housing loans, some say small-business owners could be left waiting, too.
“It’s not just SBA loans, it’s the conventional small-business loans, too,” Rohit Arora, co-founder and chief executive of Biz2Credit, an online marketplace that connects small-business owners to lenders, said in an interview, adding that this is typically the most busy time of year for small-business borrowing.
“It has come at the worst possible time,” Arora said.
— Contractors left hanging
Every year, the federal government awards tens of billions of dollars in contracts to small firms across the country. But for those that rely heavily (or solely) on business from Uncle Sam, the shutdown could mean a temporary delay in work, late payments or even cancelled contracts.
In a memo last week, for example, the Department of Homeland Security warned that, “as a consequence of the lapse, certain planned procurements may be cancelled and certain existing contracts may be stopped, reduced in scope, terminated or partially terminated.”
In Baltimore, one small contractor that serves the Department of Defense has said it may have to lay off workers if lawmakers do not reach an agreement soon, while another in Los Angeles says its work for the Navy has come to a halt because of the shutdown.
— Federal workers short on cash
Nearly 800,000 federal workers are out of work right now, putting less cash in those workers’ pockets and a strain on the local economy in areas such as Virginia’s Hampton Roads or Colorado Springs. Small firms that depend on business from those government employees, for instance, could see fewer customers coming through their doors if the shutdown lingers.
“Hundreds of thousands of Americans, a lot of whom live around here, don’t know when they are going to get their paycheck, and that means stores and restaurants around here don’t know if they will have as many customers,” Obama said during a speech at a small asphalt plant in Rockville, Md., later adding that “companies like this one worry that their businesses are going to be disrupted.”
— Closed parks threaten tourism firms
In addition to those selling to the government and its employees, businesses that target tourists near national parks are feeling the pain. All the parks are currently closed due to a lack of funding, leaving many small firms nearby without the steady flow of customers they are accustomed to this time of year.
One tour company in Florida told NBC News it will likely go bankrupt if the government does not quickly reopen access to Everglades National Park. Another, near Zion National Park in Utah, says it is expecting to lose several thousand dollars as a result of the shutdown.