Here is Where the Small-Business Relief Loans Went

See a series of maps comparing the distribution of coronavirus pandemic small-business relief.

A centerpiece of the federal government’s economic relief plan is to provide billions in forgivable loans to small businesses struggling during the coronavirus pandemic. However, the program’s approach allowed many of the earliest funds to go to parts of the country that were not as hard hit by the coronavirus, as well as to a small number of companies seeking millions in assistance.

Why, and how?

The country’s largest banks are often heavy lenders to small businesses, but during the first of the program’s two rounds, community banks and regional institutions did most of the lending, That contributed to a disproportionately large share of loans going to areas that were not as hard-hit by the virus.

Source | University of Chicago and MIT economists (PDF)

Loans worth more than $1 million made up a large share of the early money handed out.

Many of those companies already had long relationships with their banks, which helped them get to the front of the line.

More than 300 public companies disclosed receiving the loans, though many have since returned the money after a growing backlash.

$206,000 | Average loan size in the first round
$79,000 | Average loan size in the second round, it was $79,000.

The stimulus program was created to help businesses pay their workers for an eight-week period in April, May or June. Applicants did not have to prove a sharp drop in sales or other specific harm. They simply had to certify that “current economic uncertainty makes this loan request necessary” to support their operations.

Small businesses employ about 1/2 of the country’s nongovernment workers, and most have under 100 employees.

In effect, the Chicago and M.I.T. economists argued, the early stages of the program “functioned less as social insurance to support the hardest hit areas” and more as a cash infusion “for less affected firms.”

For more information and a set of maps related to where relief distribution took place, see the complete report on

Photo: GettyImages

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