Tweak to SBA loan program could boost money flow to Alaska, congressional delegation says

The East Plaza of the U.S. Capitol. (Photo by Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)
The East Plaza of the U.S. Capitol. (Photo by Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media)

Congress is close to sending $370 billion to replenish loan and grant programs for companies hurt by the COVID-19 lockdown. This time, Abby Laing hopes there’s something in it for her.

As owner of Thrive Integrative Medicine in Anchorage, Laing applied for a Paycheck Protection Program loan and an Economic Injury Disaster Loan. She didn’t get either.

“I actually only got one email from EIDL,” she said. “But I’m getting some sort of vague form letters every now and again from the banks, saying ‘stay tuned.’”

Thousands of Alaskans are in the same spot: Congress is spending hundreds of billions to put money in the hands of business owners, but they’ve received none of it and their businesses are suffering.

Alaska’s U.S. senators and congressman, all Republicans, say they want to see the state’s small businesses fare better this time. They’ve got high hopes for an adjustment the new bill makes to the Paycheck Protection Program.

The PPP is a key feature of the big coronavirus relief bill Congress passed last month. It offers forgivable, government-guaranteed loans. Businesses apply for these loans through their banks. In the first round of the PPP, some banks appear to have prioritized large loans to national chains.

This time, Sen. Lisa Murkowski told reporters the bill reserves $60 billion in loan guarantees for small banks and credit unions.

“This kind of carveout, if you will, for the smaller local lenders is designed to make sure that in this next round there is a more level playing field there for those who perhaps were not able to get to the front of the line as readily as some of the larger financial institutions and their larger clients,” Murkowski said.

The delegation is also asking why only one Alaska business so far has received a loan through EIDL, a separate loan program operated by the Small Business Administration, Sen. Dan Sullivan said.

“North Dakota got 49 loans. Wyoming got 33. California almost 7,000,” Sullivan said. “So we have questions for the SBA to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

Still, the state’s congressional delegation says some eligible Alaska businesses might be left out in the cold again.

“We don’t know. We hope not,” Rep. Don Young said. “We’re going to try. We don’t know yet.”

The House of Representatives is expected to pass a new coronavirus relief bill Thursday.


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