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Lifeguards, veterinary assistants and architects: a look at some of the jobs protected by PPP loans

Kai Ryssdal and Maria Hollenhorst Jul 13, 2020
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Seattle Veterinary Associates is among the millions of businesses that have received loans through the federal Paycheck Protection Program. Courtesy of Seattle Veterinary Associates
COVID-19

Lifeguards, veterinary assistants and architects: a look at some of the jobs protected by PPP loans

Kai Ryssdal and Maria Hollenhorst Jul 13, 2020
Heard on:
Seattle Veterinary Associates is among the millions of businesses that have received loans through the federal Paycheck Protection Program. Courtesy of Seattle Veterinary Associates
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So far, there’ve been almost 4.9 million loans made under the Paycheck Protection Program. A little over a week ago, the Trump administration moved the application deadline out to August 8 because the Small Business Administration says there’s still more than $100 billion left in the fund. So using data released by the federal government last week on which businesses received money through the program, we looked at how some of those 4.9 million loans played out in one community. 

“Near the end of June, we have made 800 loans and they totaled over $72 million,” said Laurie Stewart, the CEO of Sound Community Bank, which is headquartered in Seattle. 

We’ve checked in with her a couple of times since her bank became one of the program’s more than 5,400 participating lenders. “We’ve saved thousands of jobs,” she said. 

Stewart said those jobs include everything from small contractors and restaurant employees to auto mechanics and fisherman. “If you can imagine the small businesses that make up the fabric of our country, these are the folks that came to us for loans,” she said. 

Brad Khouri at b9 Architects in Seattle was one of them. When the pandemic hit, Khouri said, some of his company’s projects went on hold, while some that were supposed to start disappeared altogether. “I was concerned about how I would support my staff and how I could maintain stability for them, and so the loan immediately provided that,” he said.

Meanwhile, Steven Freygang, who works with an organization called Wave Aquatics, which provides swimming lessons, water polo and other programs, used a PPP loan from Sound Community Bank to help keep swimming coaches and lifeguards, as well as operational and administrative staff, on the payroll.

“If we had not gotten the loan, we would have had to lay people off, probably on a permanent basis,” Freygang said. “Today we do have everyone on payroll who elected to return.”

Around the same time, Mark Donovan and his partners at Seattle Veterinary Associates saw demand at their clinic drop dramatically and became concerned about the 85 employees on their payroll. “If we had not successfully received a PPP loan, it would have been extremely challenging, if not impossible, for us to keep that workforce intact,” he said. 

According to the Census Bureau’s Small Business Pulse Survey, around 75% of small businesses sought PPP loans, and about 72% of them got PPP loans. 

Tess Thomas, the owner of Emma’s BBQ in south Seattle, is one of the business owners who didn’t. “Sometimes when you don’t have that A+ credit rating, it works against you, and it works doubly hard against African American people” she said. “I’m a person that can come to work every day, and work day in and day out and do what I need to do, but I’ve not always been so fortunate in the financial area.”  

Thomas said she looked into getting a PPP loan and started the application process with her bank, but after looking at her credit score and all of the documentation they were asking for, she decided it probably wouldn’t be worth her time to go through with the application. 

“Finally, I just gave up even trying,” she said. “And I know that I’m not the only one that has gone through this in African American businesses here in this community.” 

So Thomas cut hours for her staff, she’s only opening the restaurant three days a week and she’s just trying to hang on until the economy and the virus turn around.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?

Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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