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Despite drawbacks, Paycheck Protection Program was money well spent

The federal Paycheck Protection Program, part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that was originally passed into law in late March, is on its face a positive action by the government to offer a unique form of relief to business owners.

And it’s important to remember that when reviewing the data made available just this week showing who received PPP funding and how much — as long as the loan was in excess of $150,000; smaller amounts went to some but those were not published in the same databases as the larger loans.

There were stringent rules to receive a PPP loan, although the rules have been revised since the program began. But nowhere at any time has the program been a free for all to spend our money.

As with any program of this magnitude — well, pretty much anything Congress does — there were risks of the intent being supplanted by the actual. The first and perhaps still most visible example of that was the number of national restaurant chains who applied and received significant funding (large fast-food holding companies shied away, but local franchises did take out loans — again, the purpose of the program).

Two big dining establishments — Ruth’s Chris steakhouses and Shake Shack — gave their money back after public reaction turned against them. But the company that owns Famous Dave’s barbecue and another chain received between $5 million and $10 million for each despite, according to CNBC, having a market value of more than $30 million.

And we’ve all seen the memes online showing the politically connected who received funding.

Again, not perfect. But for the smaller companies, the local companies, the employers here in the Juniata Valley who received funds, it’s hard not to see it as a good thing. The loans — which under the right circumstances can be converted to grants — kept thousands of workers employed at a time that the economy was on life support.

For those workers, this was life support.

Could Congress have done a better job? Sure. Hardly a time it can’t.

But your friends, your neighbors, the ones who kept their jobs or their business, are hardly going to argue the success of the program.

To us, it seems, this was money well spent.

The database of companies whose PPP loan approval was at least $150,000 can be seen online at https://public.flourish.studio/visualisation/3097474/.

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