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Did federal paycheck protection program favor bigger businesses?

Arizona small business
Posted at 5:55 PM, Apr 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-18 00:46:58-04

PHOENIX — Business owners with few employees feel that they were left behind by the federal Paycheck Protection Program created to help small businesses get through the coronavirus crisis. Restaurant chains received millions of dollars while thousands of Arizona businesses were turned away from their own banks.

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was created by the CARES Act. The loan will be forgiven if all employees are kept on payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest or utilities.

Thursday, the Small Business Administration announced funding for the loan had run out.

"To get an alert where they're out of funds can be devastating for a business," said Austin Emineth.

Emineth, along with his father and aunt, owns Corner on the Market and Hatch-It Green Chili Burgers & Tacos in Phoenix. They've had to shift from sit-down coffee shop and bakery to more delivery and to-go orders.

Emineth said the community's support has kept them going.

"It's something special --feels like an honor to be here and be able to support our customers and our neighborhood," he said. "Neighbors that have just really driven their heart..they've come in to support you. That's what's been great about this location, building relationships."

Still, the business needs help to make up for a drop in sales. They applied for the PPP through their small bank and found out they were approved a few days ago. According to the SBA, if an applicant was approved before funds ran out, they should get the loan.

That doesn't include the thousands of other businesses that struggled to get information and answers from banks.

Terri Kimble is the president and CEO of the Chandler Chamber of Commerce. She said a lot of small business owners were frustrated to hear that larger companies got millions when smaller companies were turned away from overwhelmed banks.

According to regulatory filings, Ruth's Chris Steak House got $20 millions from the PPP, and Potbelly Sandwich Shop received $10 million.

"I think there was a lot of misinformation," said Kimble about the rollout of the program. "Some of the larger companies -- it's easy because they have accountants and CPAs to pull that together, some of the smaller businesses they are the chief cook and bottle washer and have to do a lot of that themselves."

According to the SBA, the majority of the loans (74%) given out were for less than $150,000. About 4% of the loans were for $1 million or more.

As of April 16 at noon, in Arizona there were 19,280 businesses approved for money through the PPP, totaling in $4.8 billion.

According to the SBA report, the construction industry received the most chunk of money, with 13% of the total amount. Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services got 12.65%, Manufacturing 11.96%, Health Care and Social Assistance 11.65%, Accommodation and Food Services 8.91% and Retail Trade 8.59%.

See the entire SBA PPP loan report here.

"There is going to be another round of funding, what it will finally shake out look like, we don't know yet," said Kimble.

The SBA told ABC15 on Friday that applicants still waiting to hear back from banks about PPP approval should keep checking for updates out of Washington because once Congress acts to allocate more funds, applicants should follow up with the bank and see where they stand in the process.