VAN WERT — More than 6,000 small businesses in Ohio’s 5th Congressional District have taken advantage of low-interest loans to date to retain nearly 123,000 employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.
U.S. Rep. Bob Latta, R-Bowling Green, visited one of those businesses Friday morning and found that loans made possible by the Paycheck Protection Program, a provision contained in the $2.2 trillion federal CARES Act, in some cases did more than save jobs. It likely saved lives.
Latta discussed the PPP loan program and other topics during a visit to the Family Health Care office in Van Wert. He was also scheduled to visit the Marsh Foundation while he was in Van Wert.
Family Health Care, a non-profit agency, offers medical, dental and behavioral health services. Jennifer Smith, director of the health care agency, told Latta that without PPP funds “we would have had to reduce the services we offer to the community as well as lay off staff.”
Family Health Care Chief Financial Officer Laura Scott said that while 90% of the low-interest loan funds were used to cover wages for the 35 health care professionals employed there, the money also allowed the business to better plan for the future.
When the coronavirus first became widespread, the non-profit had difficulty maintaining business as usual while adapting to new safety protocols.
“Obviously our business changed dramatically. Our number of dental appointments was reduced drastically, and we even had to lay off some dental staff for a brief time,” Smith said. “The PPP money kept us afloat.”
Scott said Family Health Care officials would be interested in obtaining another loan if a second round of PPP funding becomes available. But Latta was not optimistic that Congress will authorize additional stimulus funding anytime soon.
“I don’t think we will see anything until after the election, or perhaps even into the first part of next year,” Latta said. “It’s just become too much of a political issue.”
One of the obstacles the loan will help alleviate, the director said, is the time lag in getting results from COVID-19 tests. The turnaround time now is around five days, she said, but a “rapid testing” machine has been purchased with the grant funds.
“It just arrived yesterday, after a few hiccups with the dealer. We hope to have the new equipment up and running soon,” Smith said.
The federal Paycheck Protection Program ensures that small businesses can continue to pay employees and cover costs during the pandemic. Funds can be used to cover the entire cost of payroll and other eligible expenses for up to 24 weeks.
Small businesses looking to receive funds can apply through any federally insured depository institution, federally insured credit union, and Farm Credit System institution that is participating.
The interest rate is a 1% fixed rate. All payments are deferred for six months, although interest will continue to accrue over that period. The loan is due in two years but can be paid earlier without prepayment penalties or fees.