Pastor Candi Stewart used to greet everyone who walked into the International Family Center in New London with a hug.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Pastor Candi and her husband have replaced those hugs with virtual high fives.
When the virus hit Connecticut last year, the Stewarts knew their aging building needed some upgrades. They invested in automatic toilets, sinks and soap dispensers.
“We wanted to get ahead of the curve because no one seemed to have good information about what was going on,” said Pastor Reggie Stewart.
The Stewarts also applied for a loan through the Federal Paycheck Protection Program. They credit Liberty Bank for reaching out to them and helping them through the application process.
“Applying early really helped us,” said Pastor Reggie.
Data from the Small Business Administration shows the International Family Worship Center, a non-profit organization, was approved for a $59,995 loan on April 27, 2020.
The Stewarts said the loan allowed them to keep their four employees on the payroll.
Pastor Reggie said the loan, along with support from donors, helped the church continue its mission of aiding the community.
The pastors said they are grateful for how smoothly the process went, especially after hearing from others whose experiences were more difficult. They have applied for loan forgiveness.
Following the Money
Data provided by the Small Business Administration shows through January 31, 2021, the S(BA) approved 75,778 loans for businesses in Connecticut.
The businesses cross all sectors. Medical practices, law firms, places of worship, restaurants, beauty salons and doggie daycares are just some of the types of businesses that received loans.
Five Connecticut companies received the maximum loan of $10 million in the first draw:
Propark Inc. in Hartford
Monroe Staffing Services LLC in Shelton
Cenveo Worldwide Limited in Stamford
Service Management Group in Shelton
Day Pitney LLP in Hartford
In total, 1,182 companies received loans of $1 million or above, representing 2% of loan recipients.
Loans of $150,000 to $999,000 went to 9,013 or 11% of borrowers.
Loans Under $150,000
The vast majority of Connecticut businesses received smaller loans. According to NBC Connecticut’s analysis, 65,583 loans below $150,000 were distributed from the program’s launch through January 31, 2021. That represents 87% of borrowers.
A Lifeline for Small Business
“Those who are just hanging on, they see this as a lifeline to getting to the spring,” said Chris DiPentima, President and CEO of the Connecticut Small Business and Industry Association (CBIA.)
DiPentima said the average business in Connecticut has between 15 and 20 employees.
“It really is helping the smallest company,” he said.
That has been a point of contention since the program’s launch last year when mom and pop businesses were often shut out, while larger companies received millions of dollars. Some of those businesses returned the funds in response to public backlash.
The S(BA) has tightened the rules for the second draw of PPP loans, which opened up in January, limiting applicants to companies with a maximum of 300 employees.
“Those eligible for second draw had to show a 25 percent reduction in gross receipts from the same quarter of 2019, so it really targeted to those businesses that have been hurt the most by COVID,” DiPentima said.
And in a last-minute change, President Joe Biden set aside a two week application period for businesses with 20 or fewer employees. The move is aimed at reaching the smallest businesses and those owned by people of color.
In this round, restaurants will also be able to receive three and a half times their average monthly payroll, up to $2 million. For most businesses, loans cannot exceed two and a half times their payroll costs.
The Smallest Loans
NBC Connecticut’s analysis of PPP data shows hundreds of loans were issued in the amount of $1,000 or less. A dance studio in Brooklyn received just $32 while an artist based in New Haven received $53.
A regional spokesperson for the Small Business Administration told NBC Connecticut they are unable to comment on specific loans or borrowers, but said the S(BA) uses a different formula for those who are self-employed with no employees, sole proprietors and independent contractors.
In the first draw, those loan amounts were based off of net profits in 2019. The spokesperson said the formula has been changed in the second draw to use gross income.