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: Marketplace
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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
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

How many people are flying? Has traveled picked up?

Flying is starting to recover to levels the airline industry hasn’t seen in months. The Transportation Security Administration announced on Oct. 19 that it’s screened more than 1 million passengers on a single day — its highest number since March 17. The TSA also screened more than 6 million passengers last week, its highest weekly volume since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While travel is improving, the TSA announcement comes amid warnings that the U.S. is in the third wave of the coronavirus. There are now more than 8 million cases in the country, with more than 219,000 deaths.

How are Americans feeling about their finances?

Nearly half of all Americans would have trouble paying for an unexpected $250 bill and a third of Americans have less income than before the pandemic, according to the latest results of our Marketplace-Edison Poll. Also, 6 in 10 Americans think that race has at least some impact on an individual’s long-term financial situation, but Black respondents are much more likely to think that race has a big impact on a person’s long-term financial situation than white or Hispanic/Latinx respondents.

Find the rest of the poll results here, which cover how Americans have been faring financially about six months into the pandemic, race and equity within the workplace and some of the key issues Trump and Biden supporters are concerned about.

What’s going to happen to retailers, especially with the holiday shopping season approaching?

A report out recently from the accounting consultancy BDO USA said 29 big retailers filed for bankruptcy protection through August. And if bankruptcies continue at that pace, the number could rival the bankruptcies of 2010, after the Great Recession. For retailers, the last three months of this year will be even more critical than usual for their survival as they look for some hope around the holidays.

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