By: The News Reporter
As many as 4,216 jobs could be saved in Columbus County as a result of federal forgivable loans to local businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), according to information released last week by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
PPP was designed to help employers keep workers on the payroll through the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The SBA will forgive the loans if businesses meet specific guidelines, including retaining their employees and using the funds for eligible expenses.
Lenders approved 402 Columbus County businesses for loans ranging from $700 to more than $1 million, according to data the SBA released on July 6. The public records include the amount range for each of the 4.9 million loans approved across the nation as well as the zip code, name of lender and number of jobs supported. Business names were included for approved loans of at least $150,000 but withheld for smaller loans.
PPP loans are made by lenders, such as banks, and then guaranteed by SBA. A small business or nonprofit listed in the publicly released data has been approved for a PPP loan by a lender, but it doesn’t mean that SBA has determined that the borrower is eligible.
Lenders approved PPP loans for a variety of businesses in Columbus County, including medical offices, manufacturers, car dealerships, an accounting firm and a trucking business. The News Reporter received a loan in the $150,000-$350,000 range to retain 35 jobs.
Of the 402 loans made to Columbus County businesses and nonprofits, 358 were less than $150,000. Twenty-seven were between $150,000 and $350,000, and 15 were in the $350,000-$1 million range.
The two largest loans approved for Columbus County entities were for Boys and Girls Homes of North Carolina at Lake Waccamaw and Interim Healthcare of the Eastern Carolinas, based in Whiteville. Both loans were listed in the SBA report as being in the $1-2 million range.
Boys and Girls Homes
Gary Faircloth, president of Boys and Girls Homes, said that the pandemic threatened the long-term financial stability of the nonprofit that provides a variety of programs for abused, neglected and abandoned children. Fundraising events that traditionally raise nearly $500,000 had to be canceled. Meanwhile, not as many children were being referred to BGH for services.
“Both of these factors would have both an immediate impact on our ability to operate and have long-term implications for maintaining full services for the organization,” Faircloth said in a statement. “This created an environment of economic uncertainty.
“As we go forward, we are continuing to see budget shortfalls but the cash infusion from PPP loan is helping us spread our revenue so we can maintain our staff and full level of services…”
Faircloth said that without the PPP loan, “the only logical next step would be to lay off positions and cut programs.” But because of the loan, BGH was able to keep all its employees and maintain services for children. BGH is using 85 percent of its PPP funds on payroll, Faircloth said. The PPP loan is expected to retain 136 jobs, according to SBA.
Faircloth explained that BGH has continued to take in children over the past four months, placing new admissions in a quarantine cottage prior to integrating them into campus. This new protocol created additional expense, he said.
“Abuse and neglect do not stop for a pandemic; we have to continue to be here and watch over those in our care,” Faircloth said.
Lou Byrd, owner of Interim Healthcare of the Eastern Carolinas, said that the pandemic highlighted the need for the home health care that her agency provides.
“As local COVID-19 cases began to rise and hospitals experienced a surge in patients, the need for home care became more important than ever,” Byrd said. “The PPP loan has allowed us to ensure our team of home health aides, nurses and other staff members can continue to serve patients, safely with proper Personal Protective Equipment, in the comfort of their own homes.”
Byrd said Interim has used the PPP loan to continue paying its frontline employees “while also expanding our reach so home care can be a vital resource for more people in our community, including the seven offices we operate across southeastern North Carolina.”
The loan will help Interim keep 372 employees on the payroll, according to SBA.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the average PPP loan size across the country is approximately $100,000, “demonstrating that the program is serving the smallest of businesses.
“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,” Mnuchin said.
Following widespread frustration and disappointment among small business owners when the first round of PPP funds were quickly exhausted, the program has become easier for business owners and lenders to navigate.
“The PPP is an indisputable success for small businesses, especially to the communities in which these employers serve as the main job creators,” said SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza. “In three months, this Administration was able to act quickly to get funding into the hands of those who faced enormous obstacles as a result of the pandemic.”