Montana Small Business Loans $ 3.2 Billion in Coronavirus Loans ~ Missoula Current

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The PPP targeted businesses with 500 employees or fewer to help them retain employees, pay rent, and cover other costs to help them weather the pandemic. (Photo from current Missoula file)

ELENA – Editor’s note: This is the second in a three-part series on federal coronavirus relief funds in Montana, which will exceed $ 7 billion.

For Helena restaurant and hotel co-owner Paul Mabi, federal loans to fight the coronavirus likely saved his business, which was launched just months before the outbreak of the pandemic in early 2020.

“We were at stake to open this project in July 2019, and when Covid hit, we thought we were going to lose everything,” he said this week. “And we’re here today, thriving, vaccinated and ready to open our business to hear the hospitality noise Montana is experiencing with funding from these programs.”

Mabie’s Oddfellow Inn & Farm and two other restaurants at Helena Airport received PPP and Disaster Loan funding – and of course, they weren’t the only Montana businesses to receive aid.

In Montana, the PPP program, which was closed for applications just this week, has disbursed 47,000 loans since April 2020, totaling more than $ 2.6 billion.

And disaster loans extended by Congress during the pandemic have provided an additional $ 630 million to small businesses in Montana since last year. Businesses affected by the pandemic need to apply for these low-interest loans before the end of this year, which are repayable over 30 years.

Brent Donnelly, the county director of the US Small Business Administration in Montana, says the two programs have been well received by businesses and, in his opinion, have been successful.

“Many business representatives I spoke to told us, ‘Hey, PPP is what allowed us to take a little breath and think,’ Okay, how are we going to fight the pandemic? ‘ “, He told MTN News. … “They were looking for new clients, they were looking for new markets, they were changing the location of their business.”

The PPP targeted businesses with 500 employees or fewer to help them retain employees, pay rent, and cover other costs to help them weather the pandemic.

It began as part of the first major federal Covid-19 relief package approved in March 2020, worth $ 350 billion nationwide. It has now reached $ 800 billion as Congress extended the program while the pandemic lasted much longer than expected.

Some or all of the loans will be forgiven if businesses meet certain requirements, such as retaining at least 60 percent of their employees.

This week, about 63 percent of Montana’s 24,000 PPP loans approved in 2020 went through a forgiveness process, and nearly all were approved, according to Donnelly, according to Donnelly.

The SBA maintains a publicly available database listing all approved PPP loans and beneficiaries. The Montana database shows the awards given to businesses in nearly every community in the state, large and small, as well as multimillion-dollar firms, and sole proprietors.

Highlights include:

· The largest award – $ 10 million – went to the Missoula-based Consumer Direct Care Network, a home health care provider. Eleven firms had loans of $ 5 million or more, and the total loan amount to 281 was at least $ 1 million.

· Nearly 21,000 loans were made to businesses with one employee, with an average of $ 11,200 per loan.

· About 39,000 loans – 85 percent – were provided to businesses with 10 or fewer employees.

· Nearly $ 1.6 billion in loans went to businesses in the seven largest cities in the state, although smaller cities also often had many recipients. For example, in tiny Alzada in the southeastern state, 46 businesses made loans totaling $ 832,000.

But in the other extreme corner of the state – Yaake in northwest Montana – no one had a loan.

The largest loans went to construction and engineering firms, a Missoula mental health center, manufacturers, hotel companies, and mid-size hospitals.

Rich Rasmussen, president of the Montana Hospital Association, told MTN that small hospitals were losing revenue at the start of the pandemic as planned surgeries were canceled, but they were expected to retain staff and even increase the number of patients for emergency care.

The PPP program was their only source of assistance at the start of the pandemic, he said.

“Small hospitals do not have the same level of reserves as large hospitals,” Rasmussen said. “So the PPP loans allowed them to retain their entire staff throughout the pandemic. …

“It really was a bridge that took us to a place where we could resume electoral procedures so that we can continue to be financially viable until the summer and fall, when we saw our largest crowd of patients.”

Sydney hospital received the largest PPP loan of all hospitals – $ 5.8 million, while hospitals in Anaconda, Livingston, Glendive, Glasgow, Lewistown and Dillon had loans of at least $ 2.8 million.

Architecture and engineering firm Cushing-Terrell of Billings had the second largest loan of $ 7.2 million, while Dick Anderson Construction of Helena came in third at $ 6.8 million.

Corey McGreevy, CEO of Dick Anderson Construction, said the company was able to retain most of its 350-plus workforce, even though it had “important projects” canceled, delayed or delayed due to the pandemic.

“We feel a great responsibility towards our employees and the communities we serve,” he said. “A significant portion of the loan proceeds returned to our local communities through our employees who we were able to retain.”

Cushing-Terrell declined to comment on his loan.

Ben Bledsoe, CEO of Consumer Direct Care Network, said the company was able to meet “alternative sizing guidelines” despite having more than 500 employees and receive a maximum loan of $ 10 million.

The Missoula-based firm, which employs several thousand people in 15 states, offers home health care and assistance to the elderly and disabled.

The company faced a large drop in revenue and demand for its services because many people did not want others to walk into their home during the pandemic, Bledsoe said.

“(The loan) was very helpful; we are grateful for the support, ”he told MTN News. “I think everyone we provide services to in all of these communities will also be grateful.”

He said the company is working through the approval process to see how much of the loan can be forgiven.

Much of this process is done by private lenders who approve the loans, Donnelly said.

“If there was a hero in this whole process, I think it was our creditors and our bankers in Montana,” he said. “We are a very rural state. … Our banks know their borrowers, and vice versa. “

However, Donnelly said that some “attackers” are definitely out there trying to get loans they are not eligible for and that the SBA’s Office of the Inspector General is investigating possible fraud. According to him, there are no data on investigations yet.

But Donnelly said he was confident that the vast majority of loans were made to companies that were in dire need of money and appreciated it.

Mabi, owner of Helena restaurant and hotel, said the company would have had to fire 22 people without the loans. Instead, many of these workers stayed behind and now have health insurance, he said.

In addition, the company has hired more people and invested in some additional projects that appear to be paying off as the tourism economy recovers, he said.

“It was a little gamble and a doubling in the rate, but we’re glad we did it now because we have fully trained staff and we continue to hire, all thanks to PPP money,” Mabi said. …

Mabi’s business also received a disaster loan for more than 10,000 Montana firms.

Next week: Plans to expand Montana’s high-speed Internet access.

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