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The national impact of the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program

The Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, is one of the federal government’s signature efforts to help small businesses weather the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, there is new data from the Trump administration about how this money was distributed during the past few months, and to whom. Lisa Desjardins joins Judy Woodruff to discuss where PPP funds went and whether the program is likely to be extended.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    It is one of the federal government's signature efforts to help small businesses weather the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Now there is new data from the Trump administration about the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, the most detailed information yet about some of the forgivable loans issued over the last 3.5 months.

    Initially, there were questions over whether the program had enough funds to aid all of the small businesses that requested it.

    Later, there were questions about which businesses were getting the loans.

    Lisa Desjardins has been digging into this new data, and she joins me now.

    So, Lisa, you have been through all this material. There's a lot of it. What did you learn about who got money and how much they got?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Judy, this was an incredible trove of data.

    For someone, like for us and for a person like me, it was incredibly informative.

    Let's just take a look at the big numbers involved here. First of all, we learned from these numbers that 4.9 million loans were given out in this program since April. That, of course, is historic and unprecedented. Those loans were connected to 51 million jobs at businesses across this country.

    Now, Judy, some of those companies said that they didn't save any jobs necessarily. Those could have been sole proprietors or just could have been companies that actually didn't use the money for payroll.

    Now, 3,000 — more than 3,000 of those loans were large, over $1 million. As I said, Judy, this is extraordinary data. And we were particularly able to get very detailed information about the largest groups of loans, loans over $150,000.

    Now, that's not most of the loans. Most of the loans were smaller than that. But there were still 600,000 loans that were of that size. So, the government released the names of every business that received a loan over $150,000 and where those businesses are.

    Judy, I ran through the spreadsheet and here is a map of where those businesses were. You see in this map, Judy, where the greatest need was for small business help. And then lining up with that, you see, of course, in New England, where the largest number of cases were early on in this virus.

    But it's not just about the help here. You also see some states, Wyoming, North Dakota, that were experiencing a major economic crisis, even if they didn't have the virus. Those are two states where the energy sector was hit hard by international factors during this virus.

    Those light yellow states are the ones that received the fewest number of loans. And, Judy, in bright red, Washington, D.C., that is the place where we saw the greatest number of small business loans this program, per capita.

    So, it tells us a lot about where the need was.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Fascinating.

    And, Lisa, a lot of raised eyebrows about the big, big companies that got some of this money. What did you learn about that?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right.

    As I mentioned, some of these loans were in the millions of dollars. And there were questions still about where that money went. Again, this was supposed to be for small businesses, businesses with 500 or fewer employees.

    So, let's look at where some of this money went. It could go to nonprofits. Some churches were able to get these loans, some schools, including for-profit schools, as well as nonprofit organizations.

    On the other end of the spectrum, some natural chain restaurants, like P.F. Chang's and Five Guys, that have hundreds of stores across the country were able to get this money, as well as some big-name celebrity brands, like Yeezy, the fashion label by Kanye West.

    How did these folks get that money, especially the larger companies? Well, Judy, Congress made an exception in this law, so that any company that had franchises, separate businesses in separate locations, could file each location as a small business.

    And you see some of those large restaurant chains did that. Other restaurant chains returned this money. And we will have to see if these restaurant chains keep it or not.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lisa, another question is, what did you see in terms of who received money who had political connections out there?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Right.

    It was important to look. And right at the top of the list, of course, is the president himself. He is known as a businessman. And, indeed, we saw some Trump partner organizations, like the organization running the Trump Hotel in Waikiki, for example, received at least $2 million.

    Same thing. There was a New York law firm that's headed by a Trump attorney, Mike (sic) Kasowitz, got at least $5 million.

    Now, Judy, Trump properties and family members were prohibited from getting other relief money in the CARES Act. But there was an exception made for this money, for the PPP money.

    We also know that at least seven members of Congress received money through their businesses. Of course, these are all businesspeople. And all of them say this money went to help those businesses and their employees keep the payroll going.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And just very quickly, Lisa, do we know if there's money left in this program to be disbursed?

    And is Congress likely to renew this?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    There is money left. There's about $130 billion left.

    And a reminder that this money was intended, it's limited right now to only 2.5 months of payroll. Judy, we have been in the pandemic for three months. So, it looks like the businesses that needed the money got it, but they have used it.

    So, Judy, the issue is if another round of this virus and another round of shutdowns come, more money, maybe a lot of money, will be needed. We do expect Congress to talk about that when they return next week.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So much material to pore through.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    That's right.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lisa Desjardins, thank you so much for giving this — giving us this look at this really important program.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You're welcome.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Thanks.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You're welcome.

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