The federal government has spent well over $250 million on emergency relief for businesses and nonprofits in the Roanoke and New River valleys, ranging from Main Street pizza shops to manufacturers employing hundreds of people.
This week, the Small Business Administration identified about 730 area companies and organizations as recipients of COVID-19 economic relief loans of at least $150,000. The agency credited the funding with saving tens of thousands of jobs.
At a Salem nursing home, a loan for $484,039 was used to maintain staffing at the pre-pandemic level of 75 clinical and nonclinical employees, an official said. Because of the money, “there was quite a bit of worry that was taken off my shoulders,” said administrator Keith Denson at Snyder Nursing Home in Salem. Staff and all residents, who currently number 37, have remained free of COVID-19, he said.
Monday’s disclosure identifies each Paycheck Protection Program recipient above $150,000 by name and address, although actual loan amounts do not appear.
Instead, recipients were lumped into ranges: $5 million to $10 million, $2 million to $5 million, $1 million to $2 million, $350,000 to $1 million, and $150,000 to $350,000.
The more than 700 local entities received between roughly $280 million and $681 million, according to a Roanoke Times analysis of the data. The money enabled 462 of those companies across the region to retain a total of 30,913 jobs.
However, another 260 recipients gave the number of jobs they retained as zero. Ten did not answer the question. And interviews with business owners, as well as other media reports, reveal that some companies listed as retaining zero jobs may actually have retained workers.
The report named this area’s top-tier recipients, whose grants fell between $5 million and $10 million, as Harmonia Holdings Group, a software company in Blacksburg; the staffing agency Gillmann Services and the automotive dealer Shelor Motor Mile in Christiansburg; Brown, Edwards & Co., an accounting, assurance, tax and management advisory services firm based in Roanoke; and Blue Ridge Beverage Co., a wholesale beverage distributor in Salem.
Under the $660 billion program, banks issued the SBA-guaranteed loans — loans that the government said it would forgive if spent primarily on payroll expenses. The program was set to expire June 30 but was extended last week to Aug. 8, with $132 billion still available to qualifying applicants.
Some 16,000 Virginia businesses and nonprofits participated at the $150,000-and-above tier. Thousands of others received loans of less than $150,000, but only the amount and location were released in those cases. In Roanoke alone there were 1,900 recipients under the $150,000 threshold, that report said.
The recipients ranged from the smallest of small businesses, such as Price’s Body Shop in Christiansburg and Twisted Sisters Pizza in Radford, to prominent industries such as Red Sun Farms in Dublin, Rowe Furniture in Elliston and Optical Cable Corp. in Roanoke.
Nonprofits were welcome to participate and about 50, including Total Action for Progress in Roanoke and the Free Clinic of the New River Valley in Christiansburg, did. Many medical providers also participated.
Businesses of elected officials received funding, including Head 2 Head, whose president is Del. Chris Head, R-Botetourt. The loan was for $350,000 to $1 million. Head provides in-home services for elderly people and operates franchises in the Roanoke Valley.
The Virginia banks had processed requests for $12.6 billion, citing SBA data.
Information in the report could not be immediately verified. Several listed recipients have told news organizations that the information about them was inaccurate.
Shelor Motor Mile is listed in the government data as having retained no jobs. But owner David Hagan said Tuesday that the company was able to “keep everyone,” which he estimated at between 400 and 500 employees.
Hagan didn’t say why the data was inaccurate and said he knew little about the loan program.
“I haven’t paid attention to that,” Hagan said. “Our CPAs and accountants do.”
The database provides little demographic information about business owners. Many minority-owned businesses especially have been hard-hit by the pandemic.
About 87% of the loans in the region did not include information about the race or ethnicity of the business owner, consistent with national trends.
Of the 93 loans that did, 92% identified the business owner as white. Three owners were listed as Hispanic, two as Asian, one as Black and one as American Indian.
Economists generally credit the program with helping prevent the job market meltdown from being much worse. Employers added 7.5 million jobs in May and June, a solid increase, though it left the economy with nearly 15 million fewer jobs than before the pandemic. The PPP probably drove some of that gain.
Research by Tomaz Cajner, an economist at the Federal Reserve, and seven colleagues found that companies with fewer than 50 workers before the pandemic saw their hiring rise 12% in May, while jobs grew just 5% in larger firms, suggesting PPP helped fuel rehiring.
But the program was only intended to carry the economy through a short interruption from the pandemic, which is now threatening to have a longer-lasting impact.
The Treasury Department initially required the loans to be spent within eight weeks of being received, though that was later extended to 24 weeks.
Staff writers Henri Gendreau and Amy Friedenberger and the Richmond Times-Dispatch contributed to this report.
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