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U.S. Small Businesses Are Holding Off the Debt Apocalypse. For Now.

  • Delinquent payments only slightly higher, Urban Institute says
  • PPP and other measures created cash horde at small firms
City Officials Cancel Mardi Gras Celebrations Amid Pandemic
Photographer: Bryan Tarnowski/Bloomberg

Government relief programs and lenders’ forbearance have kept U.S. small businesses from defaulting on their debt en masse as revenue slumped during the pandemic crisis, according to a new analysis.

Among small firms nationwide, 18.3% of business payments were past due in January, a modest increase from 17.7% in February 2020, the Urban Institute said in a report using Dun & Bradstreet data. Somewhat more affected were two big cities on the coasts, New York and San Francisco, which saw increases of 2.5 and 4.3 percentage points, respectively.