Thousands of Central Austin businesses received hundreds of millions in PPP loan dollars to survive through the pandemic

The YMCA of Greater Austin was one of thousands of entities in Austin to receive a loan through the Payroll Protection Program. Statewide, over $40 billion was loaned to more than 382,000 recipients. (Design by Shelby Savage/Community Impact Newspaper)
The YMCA of Greater Austin was one of thousands of entities in Austin to receive a loan through the Payroll Protection Program. Statewide, over $40 billion was loaned to more than 382,000 recipients. (Design by Shelby Savage/Community Impact Newspaper)

The YMCA of Greater Austin was one of thousands of entities in Austin to receive a loan through the Payroll Protection Program. Statewide, over $40 billion was loaned to more than 382,000 recipients. (Design by Shelby Savage/Community Impact Newspaper)

The YMCA of Greater Austin reopened most of its locations June 1. After a 10-week closure, the Y welcomed members back to its swimming pools and fitness centers under new safety guidelines, while also opening in-person day camps this summer for parents who had to return to work.

Without a $2.6 million Payroll Protection Program loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration, Sean Doles, the Y's vice president of mission advancement, said the reopening would have looked very different.

"We would have had a skeleton staff. We would have had minimal services—a lot of the services the community depends on us to provide," Doles said.

According to data released by the SBA on July 6, that $2.6 million loan to the Y helped keep 168 of the organization's more than 700 employees on staff. The vast majority of those 700 employees, Doles said, are part-time, working in roles that range from fitness class instructors to child care providers to greeters at the front desk.

When revenue was not coming in during the shutdown from sources such as swim lessons, fitness classes and day camps, he said the Y faced "existential challenges" that would have threatened those jobs this spring were it not for the PPP.


Another Austin-based nonprofit, We Are Blood, faced a similarly precarious situation prior to receiving its PPP loan. We Are Blood is the exclusive supplier of blood and platelets to hospitals in the 10-county Central Texas area, and when Gov. Greg Abbott suspended elective surgeries in March, the financial hardships of those local hospitals also extended to We Are Blood.

On April 5, We Are Blood was approved for a PPP loan of just over $2 million, which has helped the nonprofit stay at its current staffing level of 156 employees, according to Nick Canedo, vice president of community engagement.

The loan, Canedo said, has helped We Are Blood keep the staff it needed to launch a program collecting convalescent plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients. The antibodies in the plasma are then used to treat patients who are battling the virus. Canedo said We Are Blood has been able to send plasma to about 500 patients to date.

"Without our current staffing levels, we would not have been able to launch that program," he said.

We Are Blood and the YMCA are two of more than 22,000 Austin businesses, nonprofits and sole proprietors that received a PPP loan from the SBA, according to data the federal agency made public July 6. The loans to Austin-based businesses ranged from as low as $6 to as high as $5 million-$10 million.

Five Central Austin-based businesses received PPP loans in the $5 million-$10 million range: Torchy's Tacos, Hopdoddy Burger Bar, Alamo Drafthouse, data science platform Anaconda and energy services company Pinnergy. But the vast majority of the 8,583 PPP loans to Central Austin-based businesses—85.1%—were in amounts less than $150,000.

The SBA released the data July 6 after it was sued by 11 media organizations, including the Associated Press, ProPublica, The New York Times and The Washington Post, over its initial refusal to release detailed loan information.

John Arensmeyer, CEO of the national small business advocacy group Small Business Majority, said in a statement that one of every four small businesses in its network reported receiving a lower amount than it requested and that the data released July 6 is a "far cry" from an accurate representation of the program.

"Across the board, there are gaping holes and inconsistencies in the information. Serious questions remain about whether PPP funds were equitably distributed to minority-owned businesses, and there is an alarming rate of small-dollar loans," Arensmeyer said in the statement.

In Washington, D.C., lawmakers are discussing issuing another round of forgivable loans to businesses that have 100 or fewer employed and have experienced revenue loss of 50% or more during the pandemic.

Locally, businesses and nonprofit organizations are still facing significant challenges. Coronavirus case numbers and hospitalizations have spiked in Travis County and the rest of the state since early June. On June 25, Abbott once again postponed elective surgeries as part of measures he put in place to pause the reopening of the state.

This all means that We Are Blood is expecting more financial losses in the future, Canedo said.

At the YMCA of Greater Austin, where social distancing, enhanced clearing procedures and face coverings are now part of operations, Doles said the business hurdles resulting from the virus are going to be around for the foreseeable future.

"We still face an uphill struggle. As our community is grappling with this, we're finding new ways to operate in the COVID-19 landscape," he said.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect that We Are Blood has sent plasma to 500 coronavirus patients to date.
By Jack Flagler
Jack is the editor of Community Impact Newspaper's Central Austin and Southwest Austin editions. He began his career as a sports reporter in Massachusetts and North Carolina before moving to Austin in 2018. He grew up in Maine and graduated from Boston University, but prefers tacos al pastor to lobster rolls. You can get in touch at jflagler@communityimpact.com


MOST RECENT

Photo of an H-E-B store
H-E-B makes curbside services free

Previously, curbside shoppers were charged a $4.95 fee on all orders, but moving forward that fee will be waived on purchases of $35 or more. Orders worth less than $35 will have a $2.95 "small basket surcharge" attached.

I-35 at US 183 interchange
Watch for nightly lane closures on US 183 as TxDOT builds new I-35 flyover

TxDOT will close the northbound US 183 main lanes and frontage roads on an alternating basis beginning May 17.

Photo of a girl weariing a mask and backpack
Austin ISD: mask policy to remain after new CDC guidance

The district said it would continue to require masks at least through the end of the current school year.

I-35 delays
Early morning I-35 delays expected May 15 as TxDOT finishes demolition of US 183 ramp in North Austin

TxDOT will close mainlanes on I-35 in North Austin early in the morning of May 15 as it demolishes a ramp.

The city of Austin's Smart Mobility Office has partnered with Ford on self-driving vehicle initiatives. (Courtesy Ford Motor Company)
Austin's transportation department paving the way for rise in autonomous vehicle traffic

Several private companies are working on autonomous vehicle initiatives in Austin in addition to the city's own smart infrastructure planning.

Goodfolks plans to open in late July to early August. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)
New restaurant coming to Georgetown; new Hutto community to have nearly 1K lots and more top Central Texas news

Read the top business and community news from the past week from Central Texas.

COVID-19 precautions such as a masking requirement remain in place at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. (Courtesy Austin-Bergstrom International Airport)
'Signs of hope' on the horizon at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport after year-plus dip in air travel

Rising passenger counts, new airline operations and an increase in vaccinations could all support the airport's recovery in 2021.

A University of Texas office tower is under development at the downtown Central Health site formerly home to the Brackenridge hospital campus. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Central Health's 'cornerstone' downtown site moving forward on path to redevelopment

Much of the site's future scope is yet to be determined ahead of a May 20 rezoning hearing before City Council.

Photo of a man climbing on a rock wall
Four Austin institutions celebrate anniversaries

Crux Climbing Center and Austin Vet Hospital are among the businesses hitting milestones in May.

Capital Metro bus
Capital Metro announces increased transit services for Austin FC games this season

Capital Metro has increased the frequency of several bus routes for Austin FC game days at Q2 Stadium.