Emergency loans are flowing to small businesses at the pace of a slow trickle.
Though U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday night that the Small Business Administration had approved $98 billion in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans since the application process opened April 3, approving loans and disbursing funds are two very different things. A new website called Covid Loan Tracker, designed to track loans made to small businesses, has received more than 1,000 survey responses from business owners who have applied for loans, according to the site's creators. Only six have received funds.
Miami-based small business owners Duncan MacDonald-Korth and his wife Rita MacDonald-Korth launched the website on April 8. Duncan is the founder of Finsum, an online financial publication with three employees, while Rita is the founder of luxury retailer Presenteur. Both companies, according to the couple, have suffered revenue declines of 85-90 percent since mid-March.
"Part of the whole motivation was seeing the Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and Trump saying that it's going great," MacDonald-Korth says. He couldn't find statistics about how much of the loan money has actually been disbursed, so he launched tracker, which is aggregating data from other small businesses and the media. "People are only citing comments from politicians and banks saying they've processed this many applications. What the hell does that mean? No one knows anything about when they're going to pay it."
Business owners can fill out the survey with information about their company, the size and type of loans they applied for, and whether or not they've received them. One business owner who reported to have received PPP funds through the Covid Loan Tracker site owns a Minnesota-based company with 23 employees, according to the MacDonald-Korths. The owner applied for $250,000 through a small regional bank on April 3 and received the full amount on April 8. Another received a loan of $1.6 million, while the rest received smaller amounts.
While the 1,000-respondent sample size represents only a fraction of the number who have applied, Duncan hopes the information provides context. He also wants to look for trends as to what kinds of companies are getting approved first: their size, the amounts of the loans, the types of banks where they're applying, their geographical locations. "The answers will help us narrow down where the bottlenecks are and find out whether lenders or the SBA are playing favorites," he says.
Jason Olsen, an entrepreneur who owns the car dealership Prestman Auto in Salt Lake City, Utah, says he received a $890,000 PPP loan on Tuesday, April 7. He applied for the loan on the morning of Saturday, April 4, just 10 minutes after Mountain America Credit Union bank began accepting applications for PPP loans. Olsen plans to use the money to hire back some of the 15 employees he let go. "If things get worse or are prolonged, I don't know how much that will extend us," he says. "But it's a huge help for right now."
Both of the MacDonald-Korths applied for $10,000 economic injury disaster loan (EIDL) emergency advances on April 2 and PPP loans on April 3, the first day applications opened up. Neither have received any money yet. Duncan applied for a $26,000 PPP loan through online loan marketplace Lendio, while Rita applied for a $37,000 loan through the online financial technology company Kabbage. The Treasury Department initially said the EIDL advances would be disbursed within three days of receiving applications.
On Thursday afternoon, Florida Senator Marco Rubio tweeted that 500,000 PPP loans had been approved. Rubio didn't include the percentage of those loans that had been disbursed.
"We've been waiting and waiting," Duncan says. "I have family members and friends who have applied, and no one has seen a dime."