Almost half of Massachusetts businesses helped by federal aid

In some communities, more than 90 percent get funds

NEARLY HALF OF the state’s businesses and nonprofits received aid from a key federal loan program meant to keep people employed amid the coronavirus downturn, according to a new analysis by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council.  

The report says data from the Small Business Administration, which oversees the Paycheck Protection Program, show 46 percent of Massachusetts firms had received funding by July. The loans covered businesses employing 1,142,304 people, although the number could be slightly higher, as a few businesses did not report how many jobs their loan amount would save.  

The percentage of businesses receiving awards in each community varies greatly  more than 75 percent of businesses got loans in some, while in others, less than 25 percent got funds.  

Companies can borrow up to 250 percent of the firm’s monthly payroll with a maximum loan of $10 million through the program. The law requires 60 percent of the award to go for payroll while 40 percent can be used for rent, utilities, and other business expenses in order to be forgiven. If the aid remains a loan and not a grant, the two or five year loans carry a 1 percent annual interest rate. 

Business owners must hire back all employees by December 31 in order to have the full loan amount forgiven, and make a “good faith effort” to hire them back at their former salaries. The Small Business Association stopped accepting applications on August 8 from lenders. 

An interactive map breaks down how many businesses received aid in each of the state’s 351 municipalities and what sectors benefited the most. MAPC calculated the number of establishments in each municipality using the 2018 Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages. According to the database there are a total of 244,313 businesses in Massachusetts. 

“It’s critical to know where the money is going,” said Sarah Philbrick, aanalyst with the planning council. “Are they small businesses? Big businesses? It’s important to have transparency.” 

She said more than 112,900 applications in Massachusetts were approved 

This visualization examines how Paycheck Protection Program loans are spread across Massachusetts. (Courtesy of Metropolitan Area Planning Council)

The Treasury Department said in July that funds from the PPP program supported 51.1 million jobs — or as much as 84 percent of the nation’s small business workforce. 

In West Tisbury, a small town on Martha’s Vineyard, 92.2 percent of the town’s businesses received loans.  

The town’s three top loan recipients all received between $350,000 to $1 million from three different lenders. Two are construction companies, and the other provides waste service. They saved a combined 95 jobs.  

North Reading and Marblehead also had high rates of establishments getting loans, with 82 and 79 percent of businesses receiving PPP funds. In North Reading, the sector with the most loans was construction. In Marblehead, it was technical and scientific services. 

In Boston, 40 percent of existing businesses received funds from the PPP program. In Worcester, the figure was 31 percent. The sector with the most loans in Boston was in professional, scientific and technical services, while in Worcester, health care and social assistance firms received the largest share of loans. 

Suburbs like Needham and Brookline fell in the middle, with 63 percent and 50 percent of establishments covered by loans.  

While the data don’t show business names, they do document the impact on jobs. In Charlestown, for instance, a $1 to $2 million loan made to a professional and technical services company by TD Bank saved 90 jobs. Another $2 to $5  million loan made by Eastern Savings Bank to a Boston health care nonprofit kept 496 people employed.  

Even with the huge infusion of federal funds, businesses are struggling. About 44 percent of small businesses have lost at least half of their revenue, according to a July poll by the MassINC Polling Group.  

Only a third of businesses polled have been able to fully reopen. For many of the PPP recipients, funds have been used up quickly 

“Most of those businesses and nonprofits will tell you that they spent the last of their forgivable PPP loans weeks ago,” said Greg Reibmanpresident of the Newton-Needham Regional Chamber of Commerce, in a newsletter last week. 

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Sarah Betancourt

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

About Sarah Betancourt

Sarah Betancourt is a bilingual journalist reporting across New England. Prior to joining Commonwealth, Sarah was a reporter for The Associated Press in Boston, and a correspondent with The Boston Globe and The Guardian. She has written about immigration, social justice, and health policy for outlets like NBC, The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and the New York Law Journal. Sarah has reported stories such as a national look at teacher shortages, how databases are used by police departments to procure information on immigrants, and uncovered the spread of an infectious disease in children at a family detention center. She has covered the State House, local and national politics, crime and general assignment.

Sarah received a 2018 Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for her role in the ProPublica/NPR story, “They Got Hurt at Work and Then They Got Deported,” which explored how Florida employers and insurance companies were getting out of paying workers compensation benefits by using a state law to ensure injured undocumented workers were arrested or deported. Sarah attended Emerson College for a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Communication, and Columbia University for a fellowship and Master’s degree with the Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism.

Lenders for businesses that received loans during the first two rounds of funding began submitting applications for loan forgiveness to the Small Business Association on August 10. There are hopes that another round of funding will be made available through the next stimulus package, which is currently at an impasse in Congress 

“I think given the economic reports we’re seeing and given we have highest unemployment rate of any state, any assistance available for our businesses is helpful,” said Carolyn Ryan, senior vice president for policy and research at the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, which has been calling for more stimulus funding.