According to the Economic Outlook Survey from the American Institute of CPAs, 56% of business executives said their companies sought relief funds through the Paycheck Protection Program, a $660 billion initiative under the CARES Act designed to protect small businesses and their employees.

The PPP was far and away the most popular form of pandemic-related aid sought, followed by the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program at 8%, according to the survey. In addition, 35% of survey respondents said they hadn’t applied for government relief.

The survey polled CEOs, CFOs, controllers and other certified public accountants in U.S. companies who hold executive and senior management accounting roles. Two-thirds of the companies these executives represent are privately owned entities, with the rest a mix of publicly listed companies and not-for-profits.

“The overwhelming majority — 92% — of executives in our survey said their companies had been impacted negatively by the pandemic,” Ash Noah, CPA, CGMA, managing director of CGMA learning, education and development for the American Institute of CPAs, said. “The survey results give a snapshot of how they’ve coped so far, with many relying on a mix of relief programs, cost containment and business continuity strategies.”

Sixty-one percent of survey respondents said their companies had kept their employment levels and pay structure intact, presumably in part due to the widespread use of PPP and related programs. Others had furloughed or laid off employees or instituted pay cuts, among other tactics, including:

  • Reduction in force for indirect and support areas
  • Reduced hours, OT hours, four-day workweeks
  • Merit increases, bonuses, profit-sharing eliminated
  • Salary freeze, hiring freeze
  • Eliminated contractors, offered early retirement
  • Bonuses, hazard pay, premium pay, thank you bonus, stay bonus
  • Product offerings revised

The AICPA and a small business funding coalition it leads are strong advocates of the PPP and worked to help speed and simplify its implementation through a series of recommendations and the development of loan application and forgiveness calculators for the program.

“Our stance from the beginning was that it was vital to get money into the hands of small businesses quickly to ensure that their lights stayed on and their employees were protected,” Erik Asgeirsson, president of, the AICPA’s business and technology arm, said. “The Economic Outlook Survey data suggests that approach has been largely effective.”

The survey was conducted from May 5-27 and included 1,198 qualified responses from CPAs who hold leadership positions, such as CFO or controller, in their companies. The overall margin of error is fewer than three percentage points.