PHOENIX — Just over 81,000 Arizona small businesses were approved for loans worth $8.6 billion under a government program meant to keep people employed during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to data released Monday by the federal government.
The Arizona companies reported saving more than 1 million jobs as a result of the government program, which set off a frenzy among small businesses scrambling to qualify for limited funds during the economic shutdown in the spring.
Among the 11,000 firms approved for at least $150,000 in loans, several sectors dominated — restaurants, medical, dental and law offices and construction contractors. More than 150 religious organizations — mainly churches — and nearly as many schools also were approved for loans.
The list also includes nonprofit and cultural organizations, newspapers, tribal casinos and hotels.
For the larger $150,00-plus loans, the government reported the names and addresses of companies receiving them, but loan values were reported only as a wide range; exact figures weren’t disclosed. Little was disclosed about smaller loans.
Unsurprisingly, Phoenix led Arizona cities for large loans, with 3,338 businesses receiving them. Arizona’s largest city was followed by Scottsdale, Tucson, Mesa, Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert and Glendale.
North Scottsdale’s 85260 led the zip codes, with 464 businesses getting big loans worth between $175 million and $416 million. Tempe’s 85281 — home to Arizona State University — was second, with 308 businesses approved for between $107 million and $258 million.
Fifty-eight businesses received the largest loans of $5 million to $10 million.
The loans can be forgiven if businesses mostly use the money to continue paying workers. The program initially was set to expire June 30 but was extended last week to Aug. 8, with $132 billion still available.
The Paycheck Protection Program helps smaller businesses stay open and keep people employed amid the coronavirus pandemic. Under the PPP, the government is backing $659 billion in low-interest business loans that will be forgiven if employers use the money on payroll, rent and similar expenses. Companies typically must have fewer than 500 workers to qualify.
About $130 billion was unclaimed as the application deadline closed June 30. With money still available, Congress voted to extend the program just as it was expiring, setting a new date of Aug. 8.
The public may never know the identity of more than 80% of the nearly 5 million beneficiaries to date because the administration has refused to release details on loans under $150,000 — the vast majority of borrowers. That secrecy spurred an open-records lawsuit by a group of news organizations, including The Associated Press.
Still, the release of the data is the most complete look at the program’s recipients so far.