PPP is 2008 all over again with big banks winning, everyday Americans losing

The problems with the PPP seem all too reminiscent of 2008

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Earlier this month, the federal government issued a record-breaking $2 trillion stimulus package to support individuals and small businesses in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

A total of $349 billion has been allocated to support small businesses, through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and as of last week, the Small Business Association (SBA) had approved 1.65 million loans, with 4,000 of these for $5 million or more.

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While this is good news for some, still the problems with the PPP seem all too reminiscent of 2008 when the big banks were bailed out by the government and the ordinary American lost out.

Late last week, in fact, the payment protection plan (PPP) ran out of money leaving many businesses begging for a second wave of funding which is reportedly in the works. With small business owners confused about the PPP application process, those who did manage to apply for relief have often been rejected by their issuing bank due to the lack of funding.

Similar to the vulnerability we are all facing due to the coronavirus, no company in America is immune from the economic consequences of the pandemic.

However, with 71 large, public companies receiving the funding before the money ran out, we are now seeing the inconsistencies and grey areas around another government program, which exhausted its money in just 13 days.

Following significant media coverage, which has revealed the disparity of aid, we are now seeing whether the “haves” will support the “have nots.”

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Large companies that have access to a number of financing methods now have the opportunity to return their PPP aid. The American restaurant chain, Shake Shack has done just that.

However, in a time when USA Inc. should be pulling together, not everyone has been so generous, as Harvard University has recently demonstrated. The wealthiest college in the U.S., with an endowment of $40 billion, accepted $8.7 million in federal funding last week, sparking outrage across social media. Unfortunately, they aren’t the only bad apple in the barrel.

Shake Shack has certainly turned heads by returning their PPP aid and their stock price rose 6.5 percent on Monday following the news, as the broader markets fell around 2 percent after a historic drop in oil prices.

The restaurant chain, which is publicly owned, has the ability to raise its own additional capital by issuing shares. With more than 1 million restaurants in the U.S. employing over 15 million people, there are definitely local communities who will benefit more from the aid than Shake Shack.

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So far, there has been no other business stepping up to return their loan to help support American entrepreneurs who missed out on the PPP money.

Corporate citizenship seems a priority for Shake Shack and their good-hearted gesture was even recognized by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Hopefully, they will inspire other businesses in a position of power during the next round of funding.

Large restaurant chains have been at the center of the backlash, but we must remember they are also the ones hit hardest by the pandemic. Ruth’s Chris steakhouse produced $468 million in sales last year, and has approximately 5,600 employees but welcomed a $20 million loan last week. And it doesn’t stop there, Kura Sushi USA, the largest revolving sushi chain in the U.S., also closed on a $6 million loan. Unfortunately, it gets worse, as Potbelly Sandwich Shop, which recorded $410 million in sales last year, received $10 million in government aid and paid a $100,000 signing bonus to a new executive on the same day.

With cracks starting to show, and many small business owners taking action against their banks after their applications were rejected, is it time for the government to live up to its promise of helping those in desperate need by quickly releasing a second wave of funding.

Ken Mahoney is CEO of Mahoney Asset Management and a market expert for over 31 years.  He is the author of 9 books including “10 things To Do Before You Retire” and “Not Your Father’s Retirement.”

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