ALBANY – Without the federal government’s paycheck protection program, Bill Gettman is not sure how well Northern Rivers would have resisted the coronavirus pandemic.

Do not mistake yourself. Northern Rivers, the large, non-profit, social services organization based in Albany that touches the lives of 18,000 children and adults here and across the state, was never going to shut down or turn people away during the world’s worst crisis. public health in a century.

If anything, Northern Rivers’ network of schools, residential programs, health centers and emergency counselors was needed more than ever as the COVID-19 virus has permeated all aspects of life in the over the past 12 months.

The PPP, which Congress created in April 2020 as part of its initial $ 2 trillion COVID relief program, was designed to help employers overcome pandemic shutdowns ravaging the economy, allowing them to continue to pay staff instead of resorting to layoffs.

Low-interest loans are obtained from traditional banks but are repaid by the US Small Business Administration as long as 60% of the funding is used for salary costs.

Northern Rivers was able to secure three PPP loans in April for itself and two affiliate agencies, totaling nearly $ 13 million.

This is only a tiny fraction of the nearly $ 1.6 billion in PPP loans that have been approved in the capital region in the past 11 months, according to a review of SBA data by the Times Union .

RELATED: Search the list of PPP loans in the capital region

But for Gettman, the relatively small share of the relief funding Northern Rivers secured was a very big deal. Its various entities employ 1,400 people.

“It was vital for us,” Gettman said. “Without it, it would have been a struggle.”

The loan money not only allowed Northern Rivers to maintain staff levels in the face of declining income as referrals dwindled and some clients canceled appointments early in the pandemic. It also allowed the agency to provide its frontline workers with a so-called risk premium to compensate them for the added risk of coming to work every day during a pandemic.

“It allowed us to do the right thing,” Gettman added.

The top five borrowers in the Capital Region under the Paycheck Protection Program:

Borrower Amount of the loan
Mohawk Fine Papers $ 10 million
Community care physicians $ 10 million
DA Collins Construction Co. $ 10 million
PEJ $ 7,882,170 *
Carver Cos. $ 7,158,200

* Note: EYP repaid the loan after unsubscribing

Source: SBA. Cathleen F. Crowley compiled the data.

And the loan money also helped offset some of the substantial costs of purchasing the personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies needed to be able to operate safely during the pandemic – much of which was difficult to manage. get at the onset of the crisis.

Gettman estimates the cost of these supplies at half a million dollars, an unexpected blow to the organization’s budget at a time when its finances were heading in the wrong direction.

“We have lost significant income,” Gettman said.

Northern Rivers was not alone in its struggle or participation in the PPP program, although it appears to have been one of the main local borrowers through the PPP, according to the Times Union analysis.

The other major borrowers were community care physicians from Latham, one of the region’s largest physician networks with 420 providers, which also received a $ 10 million PPP loan from KeyBank.

Two other local businesses, Mohawk Fine Papers in Cohoes and DA Collins, Wilton’s construction company, also each received $ 10 million in PPP loans, the maximum amount allowed under the PPP, which resulted in $ 662 billion. of emergency loans, or about $ 152 billion that has been forgiven.

SBA gives more details on PPP loans

Alexis Musto, director of marketing and communications for Community Care Physicians, says the PPP loan the company secured at the end of April last year has allowed it to keep its most essential staff on the job at a time when their income is growing. were down “substantially” and he was forced to put on leave some less critical staff who have since been brought back.

The drop in income was due to a number of factors beyond its control, including the reluctance of patients to come to the office for fear of catching the virus as well as government guidelines on social distancing that forced a reduction in the rate. number of appointments he could schedule. Elective procedures have also been suspended, in line with government policies designed to free up hospital beds for COVID patients.

“These funds have allowed us to continue to operate, maintain our essential staff and provide necessary patient care throughout this pandemic,” said Musto.

The flexibility offered by the loan also allowed community care physicians to open the region’s first non-hospital COVID testing operation at its Latham office park which has since expanded to other locations.

“We have been able to maintain this test operation for almost a year now,” added Musto.

Albany’s architecture firm EYP, which has its main office at SUNY Polytechnic Institute on Fuller Road, actually decided to repay the $ 7.8 million PPP loan it got through KeyBank in April 2020 so that so many uncertainties swirled around.

“As the program evolved, we felt the PPP criteria were better suited for small businesses,” said Kefalari Mason, interim CEO of EYP. “We have made a commitment to staff that there will be no downsizing during the period covered by the PPP loan, despite its return.”

During these first months of the pandemic, layoffs and time off by local businesses, especially those in the restaurant and retail segments, were commonplace.

And between December 2019 and December 2020, the number of people working in the capital region fell by almost 50,000.

But the job losses and layoffs could have been much worse without the PPP, according to the Times Union analysis, which examined loans obtained in Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga and Schenectady counties.

The analysis found that 13,641 loans totaling $ 1.56 billion helped support the payroll for 166,519 jobs, or about 40% of the total number of people employed in these four counties.

KeyBank, which has provided $ 8.1 billion in PPP loans nationwide, has played a similar role locally in helping stem the economic destruction of the pandemic.

“While we cannot speculate on the exact impact that would have occurred if businesses and employees had not had access to this critical funding, we can assume that some businesses would have had to close or that some employees would have lost their jobs, ”KeyBank spokesperson Jeff Kew said. . “We are proud to have supported businesses in our communities during this uncertain time.

A surprising finding from the Times Union analysis is that only two local private higher education institutions – Albany Law School and Maria College – have obtained PPP loans.

New York charter schools receive hundreds of P3 loans

It is not known why no other local school has applied for P3 loans, although one local college that has had to scale back its programs in the past 12 months has said it does not qualify.

Albany Law was approved for a $ 2 million loan in May 2020.

“The loan allowed Albany Law School to partially cover some of the costs created by the pandemic,” Albany Law spokesperson Tom Torello said. “Throughout the past year, we have maintained our staff, met technology and public health needs, and continued to provide excellent legal education.

The money also allowed the school to keep The Justice Center, its free legal services clinic, open.

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