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PPP Loans Meant to Save Jobs For Local Businesses

IMPERIAL COUNTY — It’s difficult to get a true handle on just how many Imperial County businesses have been aided by the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program considering the federal government’s reporting requirements are markedly different for the different amounts of approved loans.

The Paycheck Protection Program was designed to secure employees’ wages as businesses and other qualifying organizations, even churches, weather the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The No. 1 outcome of the PPP loans is to retain jobs, and that’s why the federal government created this program,” Imperial Valley Small Business Development Center Director Meredith Garcia said recently.

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If you’re a local business that has received a PPP loan of $150,000 or more — the federal ceiling is $10 million — you can be found through a searchable database from information provided by the administrator of the program, the U.S. Small Business Administration.

However, if your business got a loan approved up to $150,000, the federal government has not required any reporting beyond a summary of numbers and amounts that do not breakdown beyond state levels.

For Holtville, some 14 businesses received loans ranging in value from $150,000 to $5 million, worth a total of $5.6 million on the low end to $13.8 million on the high end.

For Calexico, 20 businesses received loans ranging in value from $150,000 to $1 million, worth a total of $4.45 million on the low end to $11.55 million on the high end.

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Yet we know, through the sheer numbers of loans issued in California in total, that there were far more approved for Holtville and Calexico that are not required to report individually.

California businesses received 512,125 PPP loans, of which 49,343 loans were for $150,000 or less.

By contrast, El Centro had 61 loans valued from $150,000 to $5 million, worth a total of $22.2 million on the low end to $53.25 million on the high end.

Figures for a community like Calexico, although it’s the second-largest city in Imperial County, show it doesn’t have the same types of businesses operating out of its borders that Holtville does. Holtville includes a number of farming operations that support many employees and earn millions of dollars in revenue annually, whereas in Calexico, many of the businesses that might have received loans are smaller operations, with fewer employees and annual revenues.

Businesses in El Centro, Brawley (57 reportable PPP loans), even Imperial (23 reportable PPP loans), run the gamut. In Imperial County, all total, there were 185 reportable PPP loans approved from $150,000 up to $5 million, for a value ranging from $60.05 million to $139.95 million.

Maritza Hurtado, a tax specialist and community activist who runs Barron Enterprises in Calexico, assisted about a dozen business owners in Calexico with their PPP applications, the largest of which was $90,000, she said.

“Most of the businesses I helped had four, five, up to eight employees; some part-time workers, some minimum wage,” Hurtado said during an interview July 14.

She said the first round of loans experienced problems, with a lot of small businesses rejected initially after getting “clogged with people that didn’t understand the system and did not have the right documents ready.”

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Further into the process, more businesses got consultants or found automated systems or banks that had more favorable outcomes.

The Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program was designed to give working capital to small businesses, but Congress wanted to make a program to help employers maintain their employees by offering forgivable loans to cover payroll expenses, I.V. SBDC’s Garcia said, leading to the creation of the PPP.

When asked to share some of the local success stories she knows about, Garcia said she knows of many that she plans to publicly release once businesses agree to have their stories told.

Applications for the first round of the PPP program loans became available April 3. The original deadline to apply for the PPP program was June 30, but the program ran out of money in the first 14 days.

Some criticism was that the first round of funding was consumed by big companies, taking high-dollar loans first and emptying the pot.

Congress announced a second round of PPP loans of which the due date has recently been extended to Aug. 8.

Garcia encouraged business owners to call her office — 760-312-9800 — if they have any questions about how to apply for the loan.

“Everything changes literally every day,” Garcia said. “If small businesses haven’t applied, they still have time to. It is important to maintain the purpose of that loans.”

Nationwide, the U.S. Small Business Administration approved 4,913,151 loans for a total of $517,494,070,564 ($517.5 billion). The average loan size was $105,328. There are 5,455 approved lenders that participated in the program as of July 13, according to the USSBA website.

The federal administration made a program requirement to share information about all loans over $150,000. The investigative journalism website ProPublica.org recently developed a searchable database that it is sharing with the journalism community around the country. The database can be found at https://projects.propublica.org/coronavirus/bailouts/

Among the loans accessible through the database for Holtville include Mainas Farms LLC, which received the largest PPP loan in the city — and one of the largest in the Valley — for between $2 million to $5 million to retain 101 jobs. The loan was through Mechanics Bank.

Holtville’s Vessey and Co. farms received a loan for $1 to $2 million. The database said zero jobs were retained and that the loan came through Well Fargo.

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Calexico had no businesses approved above the $1 million range but did show seven approved loans between $350,000 and $1 million, including “Pastor of Our Lady Guadalupe,” which received a loan to retain 56 employees from Community Valley Bank.

In all, the largest loan amounts in Imperial County were between $2 million and $5 million, and there were five businesses that received those amounts, including Mainas Farms in Holtville.

The others were:

  • Kaizen Resources Inc. (El Centro), a car dealership company known as Imperial Valley Auto working out of Wake Avenue. The approved loan listed 186 jobs retained.
  • A Place in Time, LLC, (El Centro), which says its industry is “accounting services” and has retained 140 employees. However, it’s really unclear what exactly this business is or does and comes up empty during searches on the Internet. Its lender was Community Valley Bank.
  • OWB Packers LLC (Brawley), better known as One World Beef, the beef-processing facility. The PPP was used to retain 250 jobs and originated from Bank of Southern California, National Association.

Imperial Valley Family Care Medical Group APC (Imperial), which retained 281 jobs through a Community Valley Bank Loan


This story is featured in the Jul 16, 2020 e-Edition.

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