The federal government has injected more than $ 220 million and up to $ 503 million into the local economy to help businesses save jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 600 Tyler-area businesses have received Payroll Protection Program loans of $ 150,000 or more, according to public documents obtained by Propublica. These organizations include schools, churches, small businesses and large factories in the region. Several of these companies spoke to the Tyler Morning Telegraph for this story.
“It was a lifeline. It was essential, ”said Tom Mullins, president of the Tyler Economic Development Council. “You had companies that weren’t going to be able to keep their employees and not survive if they hadn’t had this lifeline. “
Mullins said the amount was great, but it was only a solution.
“We initially knew it was a band-aid because unless the economy opens up and people generate income, it is a temporary fix,” he said. “This is why we are concerned about the resurgence of the virus and the potential restrictions. But we understand that public health and safety comes first.
Mullins said the country could see another round of loans.
“There is a lot more talk now than there was a few weeks ago,” he said. “I don’t know how it’s going to play out. “
Firms in the Tyler area that received at least $ 150,000 totaled a minimum of $ 220 million, and up to $ 503 million from the program. The Tyler lineup is between $ 146 million and $ 351 million, with surrounding cities such as Jacksonville, Whitehouse, Lindale, Mineola and others costing between $ 74 million and $ 151 million. These figures do not include companies that received less than $ 150,000.
About 50 were classified as having received $ 1 million or more. Topping the list with loans ranging from $ 5 million to $ 10 million to Tyler were Techserv Training and Consulting and John Soules Food, Jasper Ventures in Whitehouse and Southern Multifoods in Jacksonville, which operates more than 100 Taco Bell restaurants.
The loans, made by the U.S. Small Business Administration as part of coronavirus relief, were designed to help organizations keep their employees and pay rent and utilities during the initial shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Jasper Ventures, Les Campbell’s vice president of shared services, said the downturn was one of the most severe in the region in the past 50 years. While P3 loans have certainly helped Jasper Ventures and others, he said the industry is resilient.
“The oil and gas industry has weathered many storms. To me to say that the oil and gas industry would have collapsed without the P3 program is probably an exaggeration, ”he said.
Campbell said the funds have helped retain employees longer than they otherwise could have, which will have the added effect of putting them in a position to bid more aggressively on upcoming projects.
“It has allowed us to keep people for much longer than we could have, especially with the cancellation of several large capital projects,” he said.
Campbell said the industry must now look to recovery and long-term adjustments.
“We don’t know if this slowdown will last for three months or three years,” he said.
The loan program has also helped many local nonprofits stay afloat. Those who have received federal funding include Andrews Center, East Texas Food Bank, Next Step Community Solutions, Mercy Ships, Green Acres Baptist Church, and dozens of other nonprofits in the Tyler area.
Next Step Community Solutions Program Director Brandon Davidson provided insight into how the nonprofit was able to continue operations that were traditionally offered on school campuses through their programs such as the East Texas Substance Abuse Coalition and Advisory Services. The non-profit organization is listed as having received between $ 150,000 and $ 350,000.
“We have 25 employees on staff who provide services in 26 counties in East Texas. By receiving the PPP funds, we were able to focus on delivering services quickly, instead of trying to figure out how to raise additional funds in the community, ”Davidson said. “If we hadn’t received these funds, we could have lost 25-30% of our workforce.
Davidson said programs would have had to be cut drastically without the intervention offered by P3 loans.
“COVID-19 has – and will continue to have – an unprecedented impact on the mental health of young people. Support systems that were already overburdened are being pushed beyond their limits. Young people have limited access to community supports, ”he said. “Some are stuck in unsafe homes, while others have no space to call home. Many face unemployment and the financial fallout from the pandemic. We wanted to make sure that young people have the services they need right now to take care of their own mental health and that of their peers. “
Davidson said the counseling sessions were quickly brought online and 58 of the 60 counseling sites were able to maintain the services. He said they were able to continue serving 60% of their students, even without in-person access. Counselors have adjusted their schedules to compensate for students getting up later in the day at home.
As of March 23, Next Steps programs have served 320 students, including 224 from schools, 77 from juvenile probation and 19 from office visits for a total of over 1,000 one-to-one counseling sessions during the crisis. They also organized 20 coalition meetings with community partners, added two permanent prescription drug drop boxes and distributed 5,500 prescription drug packs.
East Texas Food Bank CEO Dennis Cullinane said the program had helped him at a time when the nonprofit was experiencing a staggering increase in demand. The ETFB is listed as having received between $ 350,000 and $ 1 million.
“At the time of our PPP application, the ETFB was facing so many uncertainties over its funding as it was busy emptying its warehouse at a breakneck pace,” said Cullinane. The PPP loan was an important insurance for the East Texas Food Bank so that it could continue to support and employ its staff, who are on the front lines in responding to COVID-19 and feeding our neighbors in need. “
Cullinane said the food bank used the loan to help offset the cost of immediate additional labor costs for an additional driver and rented vehicle, additional warehouse staff and overtime required due to the extended hours.
These costs were due to increased demand for food aid due to the pandemic. From March to June, the ETFB provided nearly 9 million meals, a 33% increase from 2019, Cullinane said.
“In addition, the ETFB sent the majority of its administrative staff to work from home where possible and the loan helped avoid dismissal of employees whose work could not be done remotely,” he said. he declared. “Since the ETFB is a core organization with staff in a first responder role, the loan was also used to provide a risk premium to express appreciation and to encourage their participation in service events.”
While the information provided by Propublica relates to more than 600 local organizations, the true impact of PPP loans is still unknown as only organizations receiving $ 150,000 or more are included.