COVID-19

Who got PPP loans? Trump administration releases the data.

Sabri Ben-Achour, Nova Safo, and Alex Schroeder Jul 7, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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Larger companies initially took advantage of the Paycheck Protection Program, which was intended to offer forgivable loans to smaller businesses. Kameleon007 via Getty Images
COVID-19

Who got PPP loans? Trump administration releases the data.

Sabri Ben-Achour, Nova Safo, and Alex Schroeder Jul 7, 2020
Larger companies initially took advantage of the Paycheck Protection Program, which was intended to offer forgivable loans to smaller businesses. Kameleon007 via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

The Paycheck Protection Program loans — forgivable if workers stay on payrolls — were supposed to save small and mid-sized businesses, and along with them, jobs.

According to newly released data on who got loans worth $150,000 or more, the program worked: Money was spread around widely, to everything from health care companies to construction, manufacturing and religious organizations.

But the loans also went to some enterprises that are once again prompting questions about who really needed the government aid.

Marketplace’s Nova Safo has the details. The following is an edited transcript of his conversation with Marketplace’s Sabri Ben-Achour.

Sabri Ben-Achour: So who got loans that people might be raising questions about this morning?

Nova Safo: Probably the highest-profile name is Kanye West. His clothing company got millions in PPP loans. We don’t know the exact amount — it’s categorized as between $2 million and $5 million. The reason we’re learning about this now is that the Treasury Department and Small Business Administration, under pressure, released data for who got the biggest loans.

Among the recipients listed: expensive private schools, big restaurant chains, lobbying and investment firms and law practices, including one that represented President Donald Trump. Some megachurches got millions of dollars.

Less than 15% of recipients requested loans worth more than $150,000, but this group accounted for the vast majority of the money that was dispersed by the Small Business Administration.

Ben-Achour: I remember a few weeks ago we were talking about some big restaurant chains taking PPP loans, so are these revelations a surprise?

Safo: They’re confirming some of the criticisms about the PPP program, that money was flowing to bigger businesses than perhaps Congress intended.

The issue is that the program was supposed to be for firms that didn’t have other options for quickly raising cash to continue paying employees and staying in business.

We spoke with Sarah Crozier of the Main Street Alliance, which is an advocacy group for small business:

“To see that the most well-banked businesses are best represented in getting that money and ultimately, maybe didn’t need it as much as other businesses, particularly in the service industries — I can see where that outrage has been justified.”

Crozier told us that what her group now wants is for Congress to target aid, for example, geographically to small businesses in infection hot spots, where the aid may be most needed.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

With a slow vaccine rollout so far, how has the government changed its approach?

On Tuesday, Jan. 12, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced changes to how the federal government is distributing vaccine doses. The CDC has expanded coronavirus vaccine eligibility to everyone 65 and older, along with people with conditions that might raise their risks of complications from COVID-19. The new approach also looks to reward those states that are the most efficient by giving them more doses, but critics say that won’t address underlying problems some states are having with vaccine rollout.

What kind of help can small businesses get right now?

A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.

What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?

New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.

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