AKRON, Ohio — The Paycheck Protection Program disbursed $18.48 billion to 147,868 recipients in Ohio, according to U.S. Small Business Administration data gathered by the nonprofit government watchdog organization, Accountable.US.
Records show 11,810 recipients in Cincinnati received $1.82 billion, the largest amount of PPP funding of any city in Ohio.
Cincinnati was followed by Columbus and Cleveland. Columbus businesses received $1.7 billion for 11,422 recipients. Cleveland received $1.33 billion for 1,970 businesses.
Carolyn Ciccone, the Executive Director of Accountable.US, used the data they gathered to created the Covid Bailout Tracker, which makes it easier to figure out how taxpayers' dollars were spent. Ciccone said it is critical to hold the U.S. government accountable for how it distributed pandemic relief funds.
"We need to make sure that there is more vetting, more transparency, and that taxpayers learn as much about these programs as possible," Ciccone said.
The SBA was forced to release its data on the pandemic relief programs on December 2 after a federal judge ruled in favor of several news outlets that argued that information about how billions of U.S. tax dollars were distributed should be made available to the public.
Northeast Ohio cities
Along with Cleveland, businesses in six other Northeast Ohio cities had among the highest numbers of recipients of PPP funding.
Akron businesses received $396.26 million for 3,037 recipients, the sixth highest number of recipients of any city in the state.
In Canton, 1,970 recipients received $272.95 million in PPP loans.
There were 1,085 recipients in Medina, that received a total of $1.5 million. Records also show 1054 recipients in Mentor received $1.2 million.
Blanks, mistakes, and typos
News 5 has also found serious concerns about who was awarded money as part of the SBA’s $525 billion relief program.
During a review earlier this year of 22,888 PPP loans distributed to Ohio businesses, non-profits, and schools, we found some of the information pertaining to the number of jobs saved was inaccurate or missing.
There were 732 Ohio entities listed who received PPP loans that listed "0" under "Jobs Retained."
Even more troubling, an October report by the SBA’s inspector general also found billions of dollars in potentially fraudulent loans were disbursed under the Economy Injury Disaster Loan program, a separate relief program.
According to the report, "SBA approved $14.3 billion ($13.4 billion disbursed) in COVID-19 EIDLs to accounts that differed from the original bank accounts listed on the loan applications; $62.7 billion ($58.0 billion disbursed) in multiple (between 2 and 245) COVID-19 EIDLs to applicants using the same IP addresses, email addresses, bank accounts, or businesses listed at the same addresses; and approximately $1.1 billion in COVID-19 EIDLs and emergency advance grants to potentially ineligible businesses."
Ciccone said lawmakers need to provide additional relief to small businesses while also carefully reviewing which businesses receive funds.
"Small businesses need relief," Ciccone said. "The PPP hasn’t been funded since August.
"We need to make some fixes to these programs. We need more vetting on the front end. We need to not abandon the vetting processes that have been in place before (the pandemic)," Ciccone said.
Congress reached a deal to revive the PPP loans as part of its new $900 billion stimulus bill, agreeing to set aside $284 billion for the pandemic loans Monday.
'Covid... drained everything'
If Congress passes the new stimulus bill, Daniel Remark, the owner of Rubber City's Remarkable Coffee & Cafe, plans to apply for a PPP loan.
"Once Covid hit, that pretty much drained everything," Remark said. "So it’s almost like starting brand new, except you’re starting brand new and the projections that you were hitting are all of a sudden 70% off."
He and his wife opened the business inside the Bounce Innovation Hub in downtown Akron a few years ago.
Remark said he received assistance from his local Chamber of Commerce and an Economic Injury Disaster Loan from the SBA but could use a PPP loan to survive through the pandemic.
"We’re really hoping that this is going to provide the opportunity for us to keep the doors open long enough that we can get business back up or business comes back," Remark said.
Prior to the pandemic, Remark said business was going well at the beginning of 2020.
"We had just actually catered Michael Bloomberg’s presidential bid because he was down here in Akron and so that was a great start to the year and then, all of a sudden, wham," Remark said.
Remark said despite the pandemic, he and his wife are determined to see their coffee shop succeed.
"We quit our established jobs and decided to open this. So, you know, It’s rather important to us so we want to see it work," Remark said.