MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – Alabama businesses got billions of dollars from a small business loan program, which the federal government says saved more than 672,000 jobs threatened by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Under pressure for greater transparency, the Small Business Administration this week released information about the Paycheck Protection Program, naming the companies that received at least $150,000 in loans. For businesses that received less than that, the administration provided the ZIP code, size of the loan and how many jobs each company retained – but did not identify the business.
“The PPP is providing much-needed relief to millions of American small businesses, supporting more than 51 million jobs and over 80 percent of all small business employees, who are the drivers of economic growth in our country,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.
The data show businesses in Mobile and Baldwin counties that received loans greater than $150,000 retained nearly 59,000 jobs. Three companies in the two counties got more than $5 million dollars:
- Continental Aerospace Technologies in Foley, which retained 264 jobs.
- Felder Services, a Mobile-based company that provides janitorial services, which retained 500 jobs.
- Norton Lilly International, a company that provides shipping services and has a location in Mobile. It retained 412 local jobs.
Another 27 companies in Coastal Alabama got loans ranging from $2 million to $5 million.
For businesses that got loans of less than $150,000, the ZIP code data show a wide range. For instance, one company in the 36590 ZIP code in Theodore received $11,250 and retained a single employee. Meanwhile, 935 companies in Fairhope’s 36532 ZIP code collectively received more than $27.5 million and retained 3,617 jobs.
Large or small, the loans were a life preserver for companies slammed by the pandemic, according Darrell Randle, the vice president of small business development at the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce.
“It was extremely helpful,” he said. “In some cases, I’m not sure some businesses would have been able to survive without it.”
Now, Randle said, the goal is making sure all of those loans become grants. That can happen if companies comply with rules on how that money is spent. He told FOX10 News that the chamber worked with small businesses helping them navigate the application process and complying with the rules.
“I’m hoping of the ones we’ve counseled, the ones we’ve talked to (regarding) the PPP, 100 percent of them will turn into grants, because really, the thing that the PPP was designed to do was to bring your employees back to work as soon as the stay-at-home orders were over,” he said.
Randle said some small business owners expressed frustration over the rules, which included bringing laid-off workers back within eight weeks of the loan application date. But he noted that Congress later amended the law to provide more flexibility, including extending the time period to 24 weeks.
Congress last week also extended the program for five more weeks while lawmakers negotiate another potential round of wide-ranging assistance. Brian Pifer, vice present of entrepreneurship at the advocacy group Small Business Majority, said he hopes any such legislation will give companies with fewer than 100 employees a second bite at the apple.
“Because the first round is almost expired,” he said. “People who got it at the start of April, if they were still under the original eight-week timeframe, that money’s running out and as we’re seeing (coronavirus) cases grow and government restrictions coming back, you know, customers are gonna go away again.”
Pifer also said he hopes new legislation will include more direct grants and flexibility allowing businesses to use the funds for a wider variety of purposes.
“Businesses have other needs besides just payroll, right?” he said. “They have rent. They have other existing business obligations that they need to retrofit their businesses now to comply with social distancing and other factors. And the PPP was kind of limited in that regard in terms of what they could spend their money on vs. what they couldn’t.”
Some $130 billion from the program remains unspent. Pifer said that is a sign that the need has been met to some extent. But he added that a survey of his organization’s network suggests about 30 percent never got Paycheck Protection Program loans. He attributed that, in part, to rules that were “slow to come out and changing all the time” about the loan forgiveness program and confusion over the eligibility of the self-employed and sole proprietors.
Even though most states now are re-opening and businesses are adjusting, Pifer said, the crisis is far from over.
“Business owners, by their nature, are pretty resourceful and, you know, are accustomed to figuring things out,” he said. “But they still need more government support to get through this and I think, you know, certain sectors – especially restaurants, which already operate on razor-thin profits – are really gonna have a hard time until things get truly back to normal.”
Below is an interactive map showing how much Paycheck Protection Program money went to businesses in each Alabama ZIP code. It does not include loans made to businesses that received loans exceeding $150,000. Hover over each dot to see how much money businesses received and how many jobs they retained.
The map below shows cities in Mobile and Baldwin counties. Hover over a city to discover how many jobs have been saved from loans more than $150,000.