As trade across the country continues to battle the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses in southern Vermont have made their way through the murky waters thanks to a sustained increase in federal protection dollars. salaries.
Since launching the Paycheck Protection Program on April 3 of last year, Vermont has received $ 1.76 billion in funds, according to sba.gov. To date, 21,942 loans have been made statewide.
While the results of the silver injection have yet to be quantified, the reach of the silver in southern Vermont is clear.
Tens of millions
In June, Bennington County received 1,197 P3 loans for a total of $ 87,835,608; in Windham County, where tables are incomplete, Vermont News and Media confirmed some $ 34 million in PPP loans disbursed through a local bank.
In 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were 17,384 jobs in Bennington County, according to Jonathan Cooper, community and economic development specialist for the Bennington County Regional Commission. In 2020, the number of jobs in Bennington County fell to 15,420.
Although nearly 2,000 jobs may have been lost, the number of jobs retained through PPP loans was significant.
The loans, Cooper said, can be divided into two categories: businesses that received $ 150,000 or more and those that received less than $ 150,000.
Of the 1,197 loans made in Bennington County, Cooper said 90% of them were under $ 150,000, with the average loan being just north of $ 33,000. The total value of all these small loans, which he said supported about 5,400 jobs, was $ 36 million. However, it was these loans, he said, that were the most important of all.
“At the end of 2020, there were 610 beneficiaries below that $ 150,000 threshold and 69 above. … These funds were badly needed to maintain business operations, to maintain payroll, and that’s what the first cycle of the paycheck protection program was for: payroll, ”Cooper said. “We have this labor shortage and being able to keep the workforce on the payroll during the shutdown was really essential to keeping the business viable as the new year starts.”
About 500 of the loans went to sole proprietorships or partnerships with one or two employees, and more than three-quarters of the loans went to businesses with fewer than 10 jobs, Cooper said.
The most important loans
There were 114 P3 loans in the county that were issued for $ 150,000 or more, Cooper said, with a total value of about $ 51.8 million, with an average loan totaling $ 455,000. While the number of loans was considerably smaller, Cooper said those funds collectively supported more than 5,000 employees. However, as was the case with the 5,400 jobs supported by companies that received less than $ 150,000 because some companies received more than one PPP loan, Cooper said some of those jobs had been counted over $ 150,000. ‘Once.
Bennington and Manchester received the most aid, accounting for 70 percent of loans and 81 percent of the total value. Bennington received 431 loans for a total of $ 39.7 million, with Manchester ranking just behind 409 loans for $ 32 million. Dorset and Arlington were third and fourth respectively, with Dorset receiving 111 loans worth $ 7 million and Arlington receiving 76 loans worth $ 2.8 million, Cooper said.
If loans received by some companies were not canceled, Cooper said it would become a “very favorable loan” with 1% interest payable over five years. With the second P3 loan draw now available, Cooper said some business owners might have seen it as a good opportunity to invest in their business while still supporting the payroll.
“Where hiring has been a challenge, accessing very affordable capital could have helped recruiting and / or retention via bonuses, salary adjustments or other benefits,” Cooper said. “Plus, if companies wanted to invest capital in this market, with material, equipment and labor costs so high, it could have been a valuable resource. “
In County Windham
In Windham County, Brattleboro Development Credit Corp. executive director Adam Grinold said that since Gov. Phil Scott’s first emergency order in March 2020, BDCC has worked with more than 700 companies in Windham County. in one way or another to connect them to resources, whether it was a PPP loan or the State Agency for Trade and Community Development programs.
Additionally, Grinold said BDCC was running a statewide program in partnership with the Two Rivers Ottauquechee Commission to help connect people to these funding opportunities; the county business generator had partnered with regional development companies in Vermont for a program that also provided technical assistance.
PPP loans, Grinold said, have allowed businesses to continue paying their staff and, he says, has given businesses the confidence to keep their doors open.
Daniel Yates, president and CEO of Brattleboro Savings & Loan, said there was a fair amount of sole proprietorship activity in the P3 loan program. These loans, he said, were generally less than $ 50,000 and sometimes supported a single employee.
In the first round of loans that Brattleboro Savings & Loan issued, which ran from April 2020 to the end of the year, 218 of those loans were under $ 150,000 and 27 were over $ 150,000.
The bank issued 170 loans in the second round, which began in January this year. Of these loans, 154 were less than $ 150,000 and 16 were over $ 150,000. In addition, Yates said that of those 170 loans, 115 of them were second-draw PPP loans.
In total, Brattleboro Savings & Loan has issued 315 loans for $ 34,150,000 to date across Windham County.
Difficult to determine the jobs saved
Yates said it was difficult to determine how many jobs could have been saved through PPP loans because they had not received definitive information from borrowers on whether they were able to retain all of their employees. .
When the process began, Yates said the bank made the decision to process anyone’s loan, even if they were not already a customer. The decision, he said, was made for several reasons, one of which was the uncertainty surrounding how long the funds would be available: especially since the loans were made on a first-come-first basis. , first served, and that people across the community were concerned about whether they would be able to receive the funds they needed to keep their businesses going.
“For us… that’s what a community bank is. We were there working at 1:30 am, 2 am, dealing with these requests, ”Yates said. “We are sitting there, my entire commercial banking team and I, typing these applications one by one into the SBA portal. “
The goal in starting this early, Yates said, was to find a time when California would have finished submitting and before New York began to receive its requests before it got more difficult.
“It worked,” he said. “It was incredibly rewarding for us to be able to provide, as I said, approximately $ 34 million in loans to our community businesses.”
There is still more work to be done and more resources available. In addition to the second draw for PPP funds, Grinold referred to the state’s economic stimulus bridge program as a valuable resource for Vermont businesses.
“A lot of small businesses and sole proprietors have found themselves in between some of the gaps that early turnaround programs have intentionally created,” Grinold said. “The most recent [state] The program really aims to fill these gaps, helping to ensure that companies that have not received funding to date can be on the front lines for this most recent program.
While it is still possible that some businesses may not be able to get through this troubled time, with travel restrictions easing and tourism increasing in the state throughout the summer, Yates said he was full of hope.
“They’re bringing the dollars that everyone saved throughout the pandemic and they can’t wait to get out… so it’s a good recovery from that point of view and I hope it continues,” Yates said.