More than a year since the coronavirus pandemic first resulted in restrictions for Garden State businesses, the Main Streets of New Jersey remain vulnerable.

An updated COVID-19 survey from the National Federation of Independent Business provides a glimpse of the outlook among small-business owners, many of whom continue to seek temporary help from the government and need more customers to feel safe coming in for a visit.

Thirteen percent of small employers surveyed in March said they will have to close up shop if current economic conditions do not improve over the next six months. The percentage is down from 25% in December, but that's expected, experts say, as more small businesses shutter.

Compared to January 2020, the number of small businesses open now in New Jersey is down 38.7%, according to the New Jersey Business & Industry Association. At the same time, their revenue is down 42%.

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About a third of small employers in the NFIB survey said they don't expect economic conditions to fully improve until sometime in 2022. Another 11% said that won't happen until after 2022.

"We've got to create consumer confidence," Eileen Kean, NFIB's New Jersey State Director, said. "We've got to get people to stop ordering online and say, 'I can go to this store.' We've created a whole new mindset of how to live."

Of the businesses that have received loans form the 2020 Paycheck Protection Program, 74% have applied for loan forgiveness, according to the NFIB survey. Of those who received a first-draw PPP loan last year, 42% have already applied for a second-draw PPP loan.

Just 2% of small employers said that they will require vaccination among employees. Forty-five percent said they will encourage vaccination. Thirty-five percent of owners said they themselves will not get vaccinated — 44% said the same thing in December.

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