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In Illinois, bigger employers grabbed most of the PPP COVID-19 Paycheck Protection Program loans

WASHINGTON — In Illinois, 12% of the businesses and nonprofits getting federal Paycheck Protection Program COVID-19 emergency relief loans gobbled up 74% of the cash, according to a Sun-Times analysis of newly released data.

The PPP loans — which do not have to be repaid if used according to the rules to keep workers on the payroll for a few months and pay some overhead — were approved by Congress earlier this year in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic infections triggering government shutdown orders and an economic meltdown.

The PPP program was marketed by the Trump White House as a boost to small employers. New data released Tuesday shows that bigger employers in Illinois and across the nation received the lions share of the PPP cash.

Last July, the Small Business Administration revealed some general information about loans over $150,000 and refused to disclose details or information about the smaller players.

The Center for Public Integrity, the Washington Post and other news organizations filed a federal Freedom of Information Act lawsuit and a judge ordered the SBA to release detailed records by Dec. 1.

Applications for the PPP program closed in August. Companies and nonprofits headquartered in Illinois with operations in other states are included in the Illinois totals. Some employers did not survive even with the PPP loans as the pandemic continues.

Congress has been deadlocked over creating another round of PPP funding. On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of senators unveiled another COVID-19 relief measure; the plan includes money for more PPP loans.

The Sun-Times analysis of SBA data covering 220,917 Illinois PPP loans for $22.7 billion found:

  • Looking at raw numbers of applicants, 88% of the loans went to 193,545 employers who got $150,000 or less. Illinois PPP loans for less than $150,000 totaled $5.8 billion.
  • Looking at where the most cash flowed, 74% of the loans went to 27,372 employers who got more than $150,000. Illinois PPP loans for more than $150,000 totaled $16.8 billion.
  • Though promoted as a “small business” pandemic emergency rescue effort, bigger employers asking for larger loans benefited the most.
  • The maximum loan amount was $10 million, and 36 Illinois employers qualified for the very top benefit. Those companies and nonprofits include Andy Frain Services in Aurora; The American Academy of Pediatrics in Itasca; the Illinois Bone & Joint Institute in Chicago; and the Bradford Hammacher Group, Inc. in Niles.
  • The smallest loan was $56 given to CNG Towing in Sauk Village.
  • A deeper look at the $22.7 billion in total loans for Illinois-based companies shows that the restaurant industry, a business sector among the hardest hit by pandemic restrictions, took the most cash out of the PPP program.
  • Full service restaurants led with $725 million in PPP loans followed by law offices with $572 million; physicians (not including mental health offices) with $492 million; plumbing, heating and air conditioning contractors with $477 million; and new car dealers with $475 million.
  • In Illinois, 80 colleges and universities received $67.6 million in PPP loans; some 574 elementary and secondary schools split $200 million.
  • Religious organizations in Illinois took $340 million in PPP loans.

The Washington Post analysis of 5 million PPP loans nationwide found more than half the money went to 5% of the recipients. The Post also found that 600 companies, “including dozens of national chains,” received the maximum $10 million.

The company owning the Chicago Sun-Times received a PPP loan for $2,734,200.

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