Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business, have reported that the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has approved loans for Puerto Rico amounting to nearly $2 billion.
The loans are designed for small businesses, using the Small Business Administration’s definition of a small business: a company employing fewer than 500 people. The amount being provided to businesses is based on 2.5 times their monthly payroll. In Puerto Rico, 19,961 loans have been approved.
The CARES act initially allocated $349 billion to the PPP and then refilled the program with additional $310 billion. Jenniffer González-Colón said that there are still funds left, and she encourages companies in Puerto Rico to apply for PPP loans.
González-Colón is working with the Puerto Rico Bankers Association (PRBA), local banks, and the SBA to help small business owners to navigate the application process.
“This is the most direct aid that reaches our small businesses and therefore maintains the payroll of thousands of employees in Puerto Rico. A large percentage of our island’s economic engine is based on small and medium-sized merchants, many of whom continue to receive aid and recover after Hurricanes Irma and María and the recent earthquakes. We have advocated from Congress, with the Treasury Department and SBA to achieve the disbursement of more funds and in this second round we see that the numbers of loans approved are over six times higher than in the first round,” González-Colón said in a statement.
“The Paycheck Protection Program was designed to help Americans amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and that includes our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico,” stated Senator Rubio. “It is clear the programming is working for small businesses and their employees in Puerto Rico. As we move forward and slowly begin to reopen, we must continue to prioritize our small businesses and protect the dignity that comes from work.”
Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Small Business Committee Chairwoman Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) had sent a letter to the U.S. Treasury Department and Small Business Administration expressing concern that PPP loans were not being provided equally to Puerto Rico. “As we have expressed on numerous occasions,” the letter ran, “we remain concerned that the PPP is not being implemented as Congress intended because the funds are not reaching those underserved businesses across America that the program was supposed to assist.”
Speaking specifically of Puerto Rico, they pointed out that the Island contains 44,422 small businesses, 120,000 self-employed individuals, and about 1% of the U.S. population. Yet, according to figures published by the SBA on April 16th, the territory received only .17% of all PPP loans.”It is sad to say,” the letter continued, “that small businesses in Puerto Rico — which have recently suffered the hardships of Hurricane Maria, earthquakes, and now of this pandemic — were not able to take full advantage of the program.”
The letter asked what challenges the SBA was facing in implementing the programs in the territories and how they were planning to encourage banks and small businesses in the territories to participate in the program.