On Thursday, the Los Angeles Times reported that the public is likely never to know the amount of jobs that were actually saved by the Paycheck Protection Program, the flagship federal relief program for small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic — because government officials simply never bothered to keep track of it.
"The SBA's initial estimate of 50 million jobs 'supported' by the PPP was quickly dismissed as wildly inaccurate. Treasury Department economists place the number closer to 19 million, while economists studying the program estimate between 2 million and 5 million," said the report. "More than 8.7 million forgivable loans worth $961 billion have been made so far. And President Biden just signed a two-month extension, allowing the SBA to accept applications for $79 billion in loans through May 31. SBA officials told Congress they expect the money to be exhausted by the end of April."
"Thousands of businesses, including some that received $10-million PPP loans, reported having preserved no jobs at all with the assistance, according to the SBA," said the report. "In other cases, PPP recipients used the two or three months of payroll support to simply postpone layoffs. And the smallest businesses — the ones in most need of help to pay employees — often missed out on the program altogether."
While the PPP is broadly considered necessary to prevent further damage to the economy, the program was beleaguered with problems from the start. A number of organizations never intended to benefit, including large national corporations and even the endowments of private schools, took loans. And over a hundred people have been charged with fraud in connection with the program, totaling hundreds of millions of dollars.