Hundreds of local businesses take in millions of federal dollars

ALBANY COUNTY — As Congress returned to Washington this week to begin talks on the next coronavirus relief bill, data released earlier this month by the Small Business Administration show that local businesses collected tens of millions of dollars as part of the SBA’s $650 billion small-business relief program.

Begun in April, the Paycheck Protection Program provided small businesses with loans to pay up to eight weeks of payroll — as well as employee benefits — while the funding could also be used to pay interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities. The loans are forgiven if the recipients follow specific guidelines laid out by the SBA.

The program has come under fire for handing out loans to lobbyists and national chains with wealthy investors, and for a dubious loan process — in some cases, the number of jobs saved has been left blank on the loan application; in other cases, businesses reported having retained many more workers than they actually employed.

The SBA reported the loans in two tranches — loans over $150,000, for which the recipient business was named, and loans under $150,000, for which the  recipient business was not named. As of June 30, approximately 4.9 million loans had been approved by the SBA, of which 86.5 percent had been for less than $150,000.

Over 1,000 businesses in the 15 ZIP codes of the Enterprise’s coverage area — 12009, 12023, 12067, 12084, 12085, 12159, 12186, 12193, 12203, 12303, 12059, 12147, 12041, 12120, 12469 — received a PPP loan under $150,000. Roughly 160 PPP loans each worth $150,000 or more went to businesses in one of the 15 Enterprise-coverage-area ZIP codes.

While The SBA did not identify the recipients of loans under $150,000, The Enterprise was able to take the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code affiliated with each of approximately 1,000 PPP loans under $150,000 and determine the general industry the money went to.

For example, in descending order:

— Dentists received more PPP loans under $150,000 than any other area business, 45, for a combined total payout of about $2.56 million;

— Real-estate agents and brokers received $937,000 from 40 PPP loans; 

— Full-service restaurants were third-highest, with 35 loans for a combined total of $1.9 million;

— Lawyers got 27 loans, and $1.1 million in fundings;

— Religious organizations received 26, which were worth a combined $617,000; and

— Beauty salons also received 26 PPP loans, worth a combined $414,000; and 

Seventy of the local PPP loans were for over $100,000; 478 of the loans received were for between $20,040 and $99,000; while the remaining 450 were for $20,000 and under.

By ZIP code, in descending order:

— 12203 had the highest percentage, about 39 percent, of PPP loans in a zone that is about half in Guilderland and half in the city of Albany;

— 12303, which includes large portions of both Guilderand and Schenectady County, had the second-highest percentage of loans, about 23.5 percent;

— 12009, with approximately 10.5 percent of all local PPP loans going to businesses in Altamont and the surrounding Guilderland area.




Just two of the 10 local ZIP codes in The Enterprise’s coverage area captured 75 percent of all the PPP loans over $150,000 — 12203 and 12303.

Three local businesses — based in Altamont, Guilderland, Voorheesville, New Scotland, or one of the four Hilltowns — received the maximum loan value reported by the SBA, worth between $5 million and $10 million: Carver Companies and Rehabilitation Support Services, both located in Altamont, and EYP Architecture and Engineering in Guilderland.

Five companies received loans worth between $2 million and $5 million: Sabre Companies in New Scotland, Hannay Reels in Westerlo, and three businesses in Guilderland: Anesthesia Group of Albany, Knowledge Builders Incorporated, and Digesare Mechanical.

Twenty four of the roughly 160 PPP loans over $150,000 went to not-for-profit organizations, of which approximately two-thirds had some kind of religious affiliation — the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany received a loan valued between $350,000 and $1 million.

Statewide, in descending order, loans were distributed this way:

— The maximum loan, $5 million to $10 million, went to 455 individual borrowers;

— Loans between $2 million and $5 million went to 1,979 businesses;

— Loans valued between $1 million and $2 million went to 4,021 borrowers;

— Loans between $350,000 and $1 million went to 14,216 borrowers; and

— Loans sized between $150,000 and $350,00 went to 26,217 businesses. 


Local businesses

Small businesses continue to reel four months into the coronavirus pandemic — with 2 percent having shut down permanently, according to one estimate, and the number of active business owners in the country down 15 percent from February, according to another estimate.

In New York State, nearly a third of businesses reported having to shut down for at least one day during the last week of June, the most recent data available, for pandemic-related reasons.

The drag on small businesses has been felt on Albany County’s coffers as well, with second-quarter sales-tax revenue down 26 percent, according to the county comptroller.

And reopening couldn’t come fast enough for area businesses hamstrung by state edicts, for example, Crossgates Mall and its tenants.

The credit-rating agency Fitch reported in early July that the mall’s owner, Pyramid Management Group, had become 60 days delinquent on $262 million worth of Crossgates-related loans.

In mid-April, Pyramid received a Paycheck Protection Program loan worth between $2 million and $5 million. 

A number of Crossgates Mall tenants or their parent companies as well were the recipients of PPP loans:

— Apex Entertainment’s Massachusetts-based parent company received a PPP loan worth between $1 million and $2 million;

— The Utah owners of Get Air Trampoline Park, Maggie McFly’s restaurant, and Spa Mirbeau each obtained a loan valued between $350,000 and $1 million; and

— The Massachusetts-based owner of 5 Wits, 110 Grill, Texas de Brazil restaurant, and the Standard Restaurant and Lounge each received a PPP loan worth between $150,000 and $350,00.

Federal money

PPP loans have not been the only federal money that has made its way into the area since the pandemic began as New York State has been the recipient of billions in pandemic-related federal dollars.

Albany Medical Center Hospital received a $37.5 million provider-relief grant and Albany Medical College, housed inside Albany Medical Center, received $7.4 million of provider grant relief.

Albany Medical Center also received a $17.2 million COVID-19 high-impact allocation grant — specific funding that went to hospitals providing inpatient care to 100 or more COVID-19 patients through April 10.

Albany Medical Center Hospital additionally received an $83 million Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payment from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services — which is a loan that the provider must pay back.

The four hospitals affiliated with the Saint Peter’s Health Partners system received a collective $41 million worth of general and high-impact grants from the Department of Health and Human Services. Saint Peter’s Hospital in Albany also received a $60 million loan from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Other notable COVID-related grants include $10 billion in CARES [Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security] Act funds handed out by the Federal Aviation Administration to eligible airports affected by the pandemic — $15 million went to Albany International Airport.

And an $8 million CARES Act grant went to the University at Albany from the federal Department of Education, while the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute, whose College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering is located in Guilderland, received a $1 million grant.

New York State has also been the recipient of close to $900 billion of pandemic-related government-contract spending.

Approximately $6.3 million spread across 12 government contracts went to Albany County — only 10 counties received more contract-spending — and all but $257 of the pandemic-related spending in Albany County went to the Stratton Veterans Administration Medical Center; the majority of the allocation went to just three contracts for temporary emergency staffing, which totaled $4.5 million.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has a $45 billion COVID-19 Disaster Relief Fund, and as of the end of June, approximately $10 billion had been paid out — with nearly $2.2 billion coming to New York State

The coronavirus stimulus bill that passed in late March earmarked $30.7 billion for education spending, with $13.2 billion set aside for elementary and secondary school relief. New York State is due about $1.01 billion in elementary and secondary school funding — $933 million of which must find its way into the coffers of Local Educational Agencies otherwise known as school districts.

In April, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature cut education aid to school districts by $1.1 billion, called the “pandemic adjustment.” 

In the upcoming school year, the Voorheesville Central School District is due a pandemic adjustment restoration payment from the federal government of about $37,000; Guilderland is due to receive about $195,00; and Berne-Knox-Westerlo should receive approximately $97,000

The $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund included in the CARES Act allocated $7.5 billion to the state.

In New York State, Erie, Suffolk, Westchester, Monroe, and Nassau counties, the town of Hempstead, and New York York City received combined Coronavirus Relief Fund assistance totaling $2.4 billion, with the remaining $5.1 billion in funding going back to the state.

“The CARES Act does not explicitly prevent local governments (regardless of their eligibility for direct assistance) from receiving Coronavirus Relief Fund payments from state governments, so long as the funds are used for eligible purposes,” according to the Congressional Research Service, meaning states are under no obligation to share the federal money with municipalities that don’t meet the 500,000-person population threshold.

New York has also been on the receiving end of nearly $3 billion in other pandemic-related awards from the Department of Health and Human Services, more funding than any other state. 

Research facilities and various state departments located in Albany County alone accounted for close to $1 billion in funding:

— Health Research Incorporated in Menands received over $760 million spread across 21 awards;

— The Department of State received close to $87 million;

— The state Office for the Aging took in about $64 million; and

— The Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance received almost $29 million. 



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