PROVINCETOWN — A review of records released by the Small Business Administration (SBA) on Dec. 1 shows that small businesses and independent contractors on the Outer Cape received $37 million in loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) this year. That number includes $19 million in loans written to businesses in Provincetown, $3 million to those in Truro, $7 million to those in Wellfleet, and $7.5 million to those in Eastham.
The high-profile loan program, part of the CARES Act passed in March, was created to support small businesses during the pandemic. It was designed to encourage them to maintain their payrolls during what was then imagined to be a brief nationwide shutdown.
Businesses with fewer than 500 employees were eligible and could apply for the loans through a local or national bank or lender. The loans were designed to be fully forgiven for employers who could prove they had maintained or restored their payrolls to pre-pandemic levels.
The prospect of “forgivable loans” drew an enormous amount of attention to the program, and it was beset with early difficulties. Because the shutdown affected the entire economy at once, the whole small business sector — estimated by the SBA to account for half of all private-sector jobs — was applying for relief at the same time. Many banks saw a crush of demand and prioritized their existing customers, leaving businesses without a banking relationship in the cold.
The program began with $350 billion in funding, which was fully loaned out in just 13 hectic days in early April. Later that month, another $310 billion was added. That second round of funding was loaned out more slowly, and the program stopped accepting applications in August, with about $130 billion still unspent.
Locally, Seamen’s Bank wrote about half of the loans in the four Outer Cape towns — 281 loans totaling $19 million. Cape Cod Five wrote another 124 loans here, totaling $6.1 million.
Eastern Bank, TD Bank, and Bank of America also wrote many loans here. Very few of the loans — around 10 — were written by online-only “fin-tech” companies such as Kabbage or Fundbox.
There are no data on loans that were never approved, but the near absence of “alternative lenders” from the list of local loans suggests that businesses here found success with traditional banking partners.
PPP loans vary in size more than Economic Injury Disaster Loans, another program created by the CARES Act. The largest PPP loan on the Outer Cape was for $1,550,000, to Cape Associates, a construction and property management firm in Eastham.
Wellfleet Harbor Seafood Company in Wellfleet received a $1.2 million loan, the Lobster Pot in Provincetown was loaned nearly a million, and the Boatslip, Red Inn, and Seashore Point in Provincetown were each loaned just over half a million.
Those six were the only PPP loans in the four towns for more than half a million dollars. In each town, loans between $75,000 and $500,000 account for more than half the total dollar value. Recipients in that group include hotels, restaurants, construction companies, and nonprofits — 126 in all.
Another key feature of the PPP is that it was open to independent contractors and sole proprietors. Businesses that reported only one employee got 128 loans, worth a total of $1.5 million.
The data also show how small Outer Cape businesses really are.
There was only one employer that reported more than 100 employees — Cape Associates, with 120. The Crown & Anchor in Provincetown has 95 employees, and a handful of restaurants and construction companies have 60 to 80 employees.
These breakdowns include only businesses that are headquartered in the four Outer Cape towns and not franchise locations with a business address elsewhere, or regional organizations such as Outer Cape Health Services, which serves eight towns, has 187 employees, and is headquartered in Harwich Port. It received a $2.1 million PPP loan.
PPP loan sizes are based on payroll records. Each loan is 2.5 times an organization’s average monthly payroll, although the formula to determine an average month was modified several times.
Companies with up to 500 employees were allowed to receive PPP loans. More than 600 companies nationwide took the maximum $10 million PPP loan, according to the Washington Post, which was one of the news organizations that sued the SBA to release the loan data. These jumbo loans added up — more than half the total dollars went to 5 percent of the applicants, according to the Post.
Put another way, four of the largest PPP clients nationwide received more public relief money than all 571 Outer Cape loan recipients put together.
A Second Round of PPP
As this story was going to press, Congress passed a new $900 billion pandemic stimulus bill, which includes $285 billion for PPP loans. The New York Times has reported that the new program will allow businesses who received a PPP loan in the spring or summer of 2020 to re-apply and receive a second.
For businesses that reapply, some new rules are in effect. Second loans are capped at $2 million. Only organizations with 300 employees or fewer, and which show a 25 percent drop in sales in at least one fiscal quarter, can apply. The loans may be used to pay a wider range of expenses than before. For hotels and restaurants, the new loans will be given based on 3.5 months of payroll expenses, instead of 2.5 months.
Because none of the PPP loans on the Outer Cape exceeded $2 million, and none of the organizations here had more than 300 employees, nearly all of the Outer Cape’s local businesses may be eligible to apply again. Many hotels and restaurants could qualify for larger loans than before. That means that between now and springtime, it’s possible that another $37 million of PPP money might find its way to the Outer Cape.