If you want a good barometer of the small business economy, talk with Brianne Bagetta.

She's the president and CEO of Mailworks, a company that provides direct mail services. Her customers are also businesses and they are taking divergent strategies as the economic recession from the pandemic grinds on.

What You Need To Know

  • Small businesses are struggling in the pandemic recession.

  • Many businesses benefited from federal aid during the crisis.

  • Congress may still back another round of stimulus payments.

"We have some customers who are almost sheltering in place and have almost turned off their marketing entirely," she said. "And we have some customers that are being very aggressive and are marketing more than they were because this is an opportunity to grab some market share."

A visit to Mailworks on Wednesday morning seemed typically busy. Workers in masks were sorting envelopes, paper printers running at top speed. 

Prior to the pandemic, Bagetta's company was handling 2 million mail pieces a week. It's now down to 1.2 million. Its employee headcount has dropped from 96 workers to 63. 

Small businesses have been kept afloat during the pandemic thanks to federal aid. But that money is running out.

"For anybody who owns a business right now, you're recognizing this is a very uncertain time and many small businesses, medium businesses and are in constant competition," Bagetta said. 

And consumers themselves are feeling a bit better about the economy as well, says Siena College Business Professor Doug Lonnstrom. A consumer sentiment survey shows New York rising while the rest of the country's outlook is darkening. 

"Now we're bouncing back a little bit faster than the nation," Lonnstrom said. "So that's a pretty good sign. We were up and the nation was down."

Bagetta said a lot will hinge on whether the federal government will continue to provide aid through the Paycheck Protection Program. 

"Without that infusion of cash into these businesses to keep people employed and keep the lights on, I think there would be much more sense of panic in the economic climate," she said. "But I think having that PPP money allowed businesses to take a deep breath and ride this out."

For now it's not yet clear when Congress will act on the next pandemic stimulus bill.