The Paycheck Protection Program was a lifeline for millions of small businesses brutalized by the pandemic. Over a four-month span, the government program distributed $523 billion in forgivable loans to more than five million companies. The average recipient got just over $100,000.
And then there were the roughly 300 business that received loans of $99 or less.
Judith Less, who runs a thrift shop in New Jersey, got $27. Nikki Smith, a baker and caterer in Oregon, collected $96. A.J. Burton, the founder of a record label in Arkansas, got $78. And Susana Dommar, a chiropractor in Texas, received a loan for just $1.
Stephanie Ackerman, a self-employed college admissions consultant, was shocked when her loan deposit, for $13, showed up in her bank account.
“That’s supposed to help my business? It was a joke,” said Ms. Ackerman, whose company, Tomorrow Today College Consulting in Red Bank, N.J., lost months of sales last spring as the coronavirus crisis took hold.
The tiny sums were equally frustrating for the banks and other lenders that made the government-backed loans. For each, they were paid 5 percent of the value — meaning they collected just pennies on the smallest loans, far less than they cost to make. Ms. Ackerman’s loan netted her lender, Bank of America, a fee of 65 cents, paid by the government.
The profusion of minuscule loans is yet another illustration of how the relief program’s hastily constructed rules sometimes led to absurd outcomes. And they’re poised to be repeated: In last month’s stimulus package, Congress allocated $284 billion to restart the loan program, which ended in August, and give a second round of loans to the hardest-hit businesses. Lending is scheduled to begin on Monday.
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