LIMA — Some 17,000 jobs in Allen County may have been saved amid the height of the coronavirus pandemic by the Payment Protection Program loan program, according to an analysis of PPP loan data.
The program, administered by the federal Small Business Administration, was designed to support small- and medium-sized businesses by extending forgivable loans that would help cover monthly expenses, COVID-19 safety upgrades and, most importantly, allow companies to avoid layoffs at a time when revenue was falling because Americans had been asked to stay home.
Allen County alone saw $119 million to $238 million in PPP loan distributions. The data were released by the Small Business Administration this week, although exact loan amounts were not provided for businesses receiving $150,000 or more.
Among those recipients were Kewpee. The popular Lima restaurant received anywhere from $350,000 to $1 million in exchange for keeping some 80 employees on payroll, according to PPP loan data provided by the Small Business Administration.
“We’re in a low-margin industry,” said Scott Shutt, vice president and general manager of Kewpee. “This allowed us to keep our employees on the clock; to continue to pay them.”
While the loan allowed Kewpee to continue operating during Ohio’s stay-at-home order, when restaurants were restricted to drive-thru and carryout service, Shutt said the restaurant is keeping its dining rooms closed for now because social distancing between parties would be impractical, particularly at its Elizabeth Street location, where tables are mounted to the floor.
“That’s not a practical reality,” Shutt said.
AIM Media Midwest, the parent company of The Lima News and other smaller newspapers in Ohio, received $2-5 million in PPP loans. The newspaper company said the loans helped retain 328 jobs when local advertising declined as part of the pandemic.
The PPP loans allowed the Orthopaedic Institute of Ohio to retain some 226 jobs. The orthopedic surgery group, which maintains offices in Lima and 11 other counties, received $2-5 million in April to offset the loss of elective surgeries.
“It helped us get through that time where revenue was diminished over three months,” said Kathy Ackerman, administrator for the Orthopaedic Institute of Ohio.
Several of the orthopedic group’s offices were able to remain open for urgent care and emergent surgeries, particularly for patients who were experiencing neurological, spinal or fractural issues that would have otherwise been treated in an emergency department. But Ackerman said some staffers, like those in the billing department, were placed on furlough and doctors had to alternate shifts while revenue was down.
“We had to reinvent ourselves to keep our lights on and keep going,” she said. “But it was the right thing to do for our patients to keep them out of the ER.”
Rudolph Foods, which received one of the largest Payment Protection Program loans for $5-10 million, used the funds to pay for employee sick leave, incentive pay and updated COVID-19 safety measures, according to a statement from the company, which employs 500 people across the U.S.
The loans benefited small and medium-sized businesses from many industries, including health care, manufacturing, logistics, insurance and food service.
Even private schools, churches and non-profit agencies were among those approved for PPP funding.
All told, Ohio businesses saw an influx of $13.6 billion to $26.8 billion from the program, totaling more than 140,000 loans.
Lima alone saw 813 loans, which saved an estimated 11,800 jobs, according to loan application data reviewed by The Lima News.
“We jumped on it immediately because we know we could use the help,” said Rodger McClain, vice president and general manager of Lima Auto Mall on Cable Road. “It’s a good gesture when you’re short on income, like unemployment.”
The car dealership, which has been in business for more than 100 years, is now focused on making sure the loan is forgiven. But the rules keep changing, McClain said, so he and his staff are paying close attention to the evolving guidelines.