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WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department on Monday released the names of more than 650,000 companies that received funds from the government’s small business lending program, a massive effort intended to support the economy as states shut down in April to contain the viral outbreak.
Treasury identified just a fraction of the total borrowers, naming only those companies that got more than $150,000. Those firms made up less than 15 percent of the nearly 5 million small companies that received loans.
The average loan amount for the entire program was $107,000, the Treasury Department said in a broad summary of the program. The government handed out $521 billion through the paycheck protection program, a crucial piece of the government’s $2 trillion rescue package. The loans can be forgiven if the businesses mostly use the money to continue paying their workers.
The recipients employed 51 million people before the pandemic began, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, or about 85 percent of all workers at companies with fewer than 500 employees. Not all of those jobs were saved. The government won’t know how many were until companies apply to have the loans forgiven, a process that is just beginning.
While the data included demographic information on some of the borrowers, the officials said it was incomplete because companies were not required to supply information on their race, ethnicity and gender. More of that data may become available when borrowers apply to have the loans forgiven.
But the government was able to determine that 27 percent of the loan money went to low- and moderate-income areas, the officials said.
The PPP was up and running just days after being approved by Congress in late March. It provided loans of up to $10 million for small businesses to help them recover from the government-ordered shutdowns and revenue losses caused by the virus outbreak. The ability to convert the loans to grants made the program particularly appealing.
Once opened April 3, the PPP sparked a flood of applications from desperate small-business owners. The SBA approved more than 1.6 million loans worth $349 million in less than two weeks, exhausting the initial funding. Millions of other businesses had to wait nearly two more weeks for Congress to approve an additional $310 million. Nearly 3.2 million loans worth $172 billion were approved in the second round as of June 30, leaving around $132 billion unclaimed. Congress approved an extension of the program this week until Aug. 8.
Economists generally credit the program with helping prevent the job market meltdown from being much worse. Employers added 7.5 million jobs in May and June, a solid increase though it left the economy with nearly 15 million fewer jobs than before the pandemic. Many economists credit the PPP with driving some of that gain.
Yet other analyses, such as one conducted by economists at Standard & Poors, found that businesses in states with fewer job losses received more loans than those in harder-hit states.
Story by Christopher Rugaber and Joyce M. Rosenberg.