LV Sun: State’s congressional members hope Nevada sees more money in new round of stimulus funding

May 6, 2020
In The News

As more stimulus funding from Washington flows into the U.S. economy, Nevada-based businesses shut out of the original program have another chance at receiving funding.

The Paycheck Protection Program, a forgivable loan program that was part of the federal coronavirus aid package signed into law March 30, sent considerably less funding to Nevada businesses than to businesses in other states. Nevada’s congressional delegation worked to ensure more businesses in the state met the application requirements and more lenders would be able to participate in this second go-round of the program, signed into law Friday.

Under the Paycheck Protection Program, qualified small businesses, with up to 500 employees, can receive loans from the federal government. The loans are forgivable if the companies use 75% of the money for paying and retaining their employees. The other 25% can be used to pay mortgages, rent and utility costs during the eight weeks after it is sent. Any portion of the loan not forgiven by the lender must be repaid over two years at 1% interest.

The crushing economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the nation's small-businesses, many of which were shuttered when the pandemic began, proved overwhelmingly popular— the original $349 billion in funding lasted from April 3 to April 16, then ran out of funds. Last week, Congress passed $320 billion in supplementary funding for the PPP and President Donald Trump signed the extension into law.

Businesses in Nevada received $2.01 billion spread out through 8,674 loans in the initial loan offerings, according to the Small Business Administration. It is unclear how many loans in total were requested by Nevada businesses.

The $2.01 billion ranks Nevada 37th among states in terms of the dollar amount of loans approved in the initial program. While the difference between Nevada’s and some states’ funding is negligible, businesses in states like California and Texas received $33.4 billion and $28.5 billion, respectively.

The Silver State's businesses received less funding from the program than similarly populated states such as Arkansas ($2.7 billion), Mississippi ($2.5 billion), Iowa ($4.3 billion) and Utah ($3.7 billion).

U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., said there were three likely reasons Nevada received less funding than other states: the exclusion of most gaming-related businesses from the program; fewer federally chartered banks in Nevada compared with other states; and the quick rollout of the program with limited guidance from the federal government.

Originally, businesses that made more than a third of their revenue from gaming could not qualify for the loans. After outcry from politicians from Nevada and other states, the Small Business Administration announced Friday that there would be no such restrictions going forward. It’s a change that was praised by every member of the Nevada congressional delegation.

“The Trump administration’s attempt to prevent small gaming businesses from accessing grants and loans was foolish from the start,” U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., said in a statement. “The people who work at these small businesses can finally get some relief.”

Titus, whose district is made up of much of Las Vegas proper, said that many small gaming businesses had been in touch with her office before the regulation was rolled back, expressing concern for what the lack of federal funding could mean for their businesses.

The legislation approved last week also included special provisions to include small banks to participate in the lending program. Horsford said $30 billion would be allocated to community-based lenders, small banks, credit unions and community development financial institutions with less than $10 billion in assets, to lend to participating small businesses. Those smaller institutions, Horsford noted, are more connected to smaller-scale businesses.

Larger banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America were criticized for their distribution of funding in the initial offering, with many prioritizing loans to applicants with preexisting relationships.

“Not just relationships," Horsford said. "You had to have an outstanding business loan with Bank of America, which I take objection to. That was not anywhere in the legislation that we had approved.”

Nevada, Horsford said, lacks banking options compared with some states. Its longtime struggles in diversifying its economy, he said, has led to a smaller financial services sector than other states.

“A lot of the national banks had their own internal processes and, again, what I had heard directly from local community banks … (was) they simply were not treated equitably in the process,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Susie Lee, D-Nev., who was unavailable to comment, recently signed onto a letter to congressional leadership ahead of the most recent funding approval, calling for changes to allow privately insured credit unions participate in the lending.

“For many Americans and small businesses across the country, their local credit union is their primary — and sometimes only — provider of their financial services and banking needs,” the letter stated.

Applications for the program restarted Monday, the day that the new funding kicked in.

The PPP is a first-come, first-served program, and Horsford stressed the need for business owners who had previously begun their applications before the money ran out to check in with their lenders to ensure that their applications were still being processed.

“I need every small business in my district and throughout Nevada who needs help to apply,” Horsford said.