PPP helped prevent laid off employees

The world shut down quickly in March 2020.

Entire sectors of the economy were shuttered in a matter of days.

The economic impact of the pandemic will probably be felt for years.

But one federal program brought millions into Warren County and is projected to have preserved, at a minimum, 3,881 jobs – the Paycheck Protection Programs.

In short, it allowed businesses to secure SBA-backed loans to keep their workforces on the books during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Loans would be forgiven if all employee retention criteria are met and the funds are used for eligible expenses. The Paycheck Protection Program officially ended on May 31, 2021.

“Without the PPP we would have laid off employees,” Arthur Stewart, president of Cameron Energy Company, explained. “In fact, the week that the PPP was being debated in Congress, my management team and I met with all our employees to talk through the impact of the lockdowns; then we announced our layoff plans. It was a miserable day.”

The Paycheck Protection Program – part of the CARES Act – was signed into law on March 27, 2020. Stewart said that move resulted in layoffs being postponed pending a PPP application.

“It took about six weeks to get word on the application,” he said. “It was a tense time because we were spending savings at a fast clip.”

Approximately 320 loans were provided to businesses in Warren County, according to a database on the program. The reporting doesn’t provide specific totals but ranges – $2M-$5M, $350K to $1M, $150K to $350k and less than $150k.

So the total awarded is somewhere between $29.3 million and $57.8 million, retaining a total of 3,881 jobs. Though several entities don’t have a jobs total listed meaning that the number is likely substantially higher.

“PPP worked as advertised,” Stewart explained. “We avoided layoffs at our company, and outside our company we were able to keep buying supplies and selling product to the refinery. Our ability to purchase and produce helped keep the supply stores and refinery operating.”

He acknowledged that going the route of the program was a “risk because we had to keep our employees on the payroll with no guarantee that our PPP application would be approved or that the loan would be forgiven.

“We rolled the dice and it worked out. In the back of our minds, our management team knew that if the country didn’t do something to counteract the lockdowns, the country would be in enormous trouble. So the PPP risk seemed justified.

Stewart said they also received PPP round two as well which “helped us keep our staff intact for the duration of the downturn. Now that we are emerging from the downturn we are able to get right back to business as normal instead of having to staff up again.”

In Warren County, four entities received between $2 million and $5 million – Betts Industries, Inc., Crossett, Rouse Estate and Whirley Industries, Inc.

There were 14 entities that received between $350,000 and $1 million. Those include, with the number of jobs preserved in parenthesis where available, Allegheny Valve & Coupling (39 jobs), Briggs Transport Inc. (28), Cameron Energy Company, Community Eye Care Specialists, Inc. (44), D&R Transportation, LLC (102), Darling Apothecary LLC (50), Ed Shults of Warren, Inc., (44), Employees Strategic Partnership Group, LLC (73), JR Kays Trucking, Inc. (34), Sachiye McKenna & Associates, LLC (42), Tidioute Community Charter School (48), W.H. Fitzgerald, Inc., Warren Midtown Motors (53) and West Penn Oil Company (10).

A school may not seem like a typical applicant but TCCS was eligible, Chief Educational Officer Dr. Doug Allen said, as a non-profit organization.

“The PPP loan was very important to TCCS. It allowed us to continue educating our students and to supplement our programs during covid when all expenses were higher than normal,” he said.

Their loan was through Marquette Bank in Erie.

“It was an important source of funding,” Allen explained. “We at TCCS added five additional, not regularly employed temporary employees to serve students during COVID in 2020-2021 as aides, teachers, and cleaning custodians to help us maintain our return to school COVID-19 board-approved plan.

He said the cost of additional staff plus all of the technological resources needed to take school online.

“PPP was for salary expenses in general but we had to purchase technology and supplement salary funds so PPP was a great help to our kids and parents,” Allen said.

A total of 32 entities fell between $150,000 and $350,000 while 278 received loans under $150,000, with the smallest coming in at $684.


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