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Most PPP money in Mass. went to a small number of companies

Nearly 118,000 small businesses in Massachusetts received Paycheck Protection Program loans for pandemic relief.Erin Clark / Globe Staff/The Boston Globe

More than half the money that Massachusetts companies received as part of the federal Paycheck Protection Program went to fewer than 5 percent of the loan recipients, according to data released Tuesday night by the Small Business Administration.

Details on the Treasury Department’s $525 billion lending program, which was designed to help small businesses withstand the pandemic, show that a relatively small number of companies — and some well-known chains — received most of the funds, nationally and locally.

In Massachusetts, nearly 118,000 companies were approved for loans, totaling more than $14 billion in PPP aid, according to the SBA. Just 2 percent of recipients, or 2,382 companies, received more than one-third of the total loan amounts, each receiving at least $1 million in loans.


Fifteen Massachusetts companies were approved for loans of $10 million each, the maximum amount. According to SBA data, those top borrowers include several restaurant chains: Legal Sea Foods, Uno Restaurants, PR Restaurants LLC (the operator of 64 Panera restaurants), and the owner of Papa Gino’s Pizzeria and D’Angelo Grilled Sandwiches.

The SBA previously released data on PPP loans, but just on recipients of $150,000 or more, and it only showed ranges for loan amounts. By contrast, the new release — which follows a legal case between the SBA and news organizations — includes all of the more than 5 million loan recipients in the United States, and the exact amount each was awarded. The SBA said the data only include active loans, meaning it excludes any that “were canceled for any reason.”

Roger Berkowitz, chief executive of Legal Sea Foods, said in a statement that the restaurant has used its loan to get “as many employees back to work as possible,” in addition to paying for employee benefits and using the balance for utilities and rent.


From left to right: Legal Sea Foods, Panera and Papa Gino's Pizzeria.

Most companies on the list did not disclose the race or gender of their owners. For those that did, 84 percent classified them as white, and about 78 percent identified as male. Among this group, about 91 percent of the funds were awarded to white owners, and 84 percent went to men.

While the majority of dollars distributed in Massachusetts went to a small number of companies, the largest volume of loans was concentrated in smaller amounts. Of the nearly 118,000 loans awarded in the state, about 54,000 were for less than $25,000 each.

The SBA release still leaves questions. Some companies, including more than 23,500 in Massachusetts, either didn’t report the number of jobs they retained using the loan or listed it as zero. The goal of the PPP program is to incentivize small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll.

It is also unclear at this point which loans will be forgiven. Businesses can apply to have 100 percent of their loan forgiven up to 10 months after the funds are spent, as long as the money is spent on eligible expenses, such as payroll costs, rent, mortgage interest, and utilities. The SBA stopped taking loan applications in August.

A Bank of America survey of 300 businesses owners in Greater Boston, released Wednesday, found that 36 percent took part in the Paycheck Protection Program. The survey also found the local business community’s outlook is cautious: Only 19 percent of respondents said they plan to hire more workers, and most predict their revenue will stay the same or decrease.


Tom Brady’s health and performance company, TB12, was awarded a loan of about $961,000.Barry Chin/Globe Staff/file

Other Massachusetts companies listed as receiving $10 million loans include the security company Northeast Security and dairy cooperative Agri-Mark, which makes Cabot cheese. Tom Brady’s health and performance company, TB12, was awarded a loan of about $961,000.

Several small colleges and universities were granted multimillion-dollar loans, according to the SBA data. Assumption College in Worcester received a $7.5 million loan, and Wheaton College in Norton received a $6.5 million loan. Pine Manor College, which Boston College agreed to acquire earlier this year, was awarded $1.4 million. Becker College, Fisher College, Gordon College, and Nichols College also received aid.

Todd Wallack of the Globe staff contributed to this report. He can be reached at todd.wallack@globe.com.

Anissa Gardizy can be reached at anissa.gardizy@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @anissagardizy8 and on Instagram @anissagardizy.journalism.