Colorado Companies Big And Small, But No Surprises, Got A Gov’t PPP Loan

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A pedestrian wears a face mask while passing by a sign placed on the door of a business in an effort to stop the rise of the new coronavirus Wednesday, May 20, 2020, in Denver.

A broad swath of Colorado companies accessed funds from the federal government’s $700 billion lifeline for small businesses hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The reach of taxpayer loans granted through the program goes far beyond the mom-and-pop retailers and local restaurants many envision when they think of small businesses. A range of companies in financial services, technology, construction and manufacturing also received funding, according to data released by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

The Treasury only released the names of businesses that received loans greater than $150,000.

The Payroll Protection Program is the cornerstone of the government’s effort to aid businesses with fewer than 500 employees. The program provides low-interest loans that can be forgiven if they are used primarily to make payroll. The initial rollout in March was beset by technological glitches and criticism that the biggest banks were favoring large clients, shutting out businesses that needed the assistance most.  

Across the U.S., the program gave out 4.9 million loans and supported more than 51 million jobs, according to the Treasury department. A total of 13,385 loans were granted in Colorado. About 95 percent of loans in the state were for $350,000 or less, the data show. The program has helped keep or create 900,000 jobs in Colorado, according to the Small Business Administration.

“When support was needed most, the SBA and our lending partners rapidly responded to aid the state’s more than 680,000 small businesses,” Frances Padilla, SBA Colorado District Office director, said in an emailed statement. “The PPP was instrumental in providing another critical tool for helping bridge the necessity to protect payroll during this time.”

Some borrowers took immediate hits from stay-at-home orders and mandatory shutdowns of non-essential businesses. For example, the Sky Ute Casino Resort in Ignacio, Colorado, took a loan for between $2 million and $5 million, to save 288 jobs, the data show.

For other companies, the direct impact of the pandemic is less clear. Advisors Asset Management, an investment firm based in Monument, took a loan between $5 and $10 million, accounting for 268 jobs, the data show. The firm took the money “out of an abundance of caution,” according to Catherine Brennan, a company spokesperson.

“AAM participated in the Paycheck Protection Program to assure our employees were supported through this historic pandemic,” Brennan said in an email. “AAM has complied with and intends to continue to comply with all terms and requirements of the PPP loan.”

The Treasury department excluded financial firms that make money through speculative investments in late April, though many Wall Street firms got loans earlier in the program, the data show. Advisors Asset Management declined to comment on whether they qualified under the more stringent guidelines put in place after they received a loan.

Of Colorado’s total, 95 loans were made for between $5 million and $10 million, the maximum allowed under the program. Familiar names that received large loans include the Colorado Museum of Natural History, Kona Grill and Wendy’s. Plenty of small proprietors with small loans are on the list as well, such as local florists and bakeries. Colorado Public Radio got a loan from the program.  

The first round of funding dried up in days, but since then, interest in the program has cooled. There is more than $100 billion of the aid still available. For some business owners, it’s already too late. Others say the terms of the program don’t make sense for them, according to Hunter Railey, the Colorado director of the Small Business Majority, an advocacy and education group. That is particularly true in service industries such as hospitality where many businesses are still closed.

“There is no point in taking out a loan if you can’t reopen right now,” Railey said.

Disclaimer: Colorado Public Radio applied for and received assistance from the Paycheck Protection Program during the coronavirus pandemic.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to the name of the Small Business Administration.