A federal relief program for small businesses delivered more than $2 billion to nearly every type of private sector business in every corner of Maine, according to data released Monday by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

More than 27,000 forgivable loans worth about $2.2 billion have been provided to Maine companies since the Paycheck Protection Program was established in April, but the names of companies and nonprofit organizations that benefited from the program had been kept secret.

The program was intended to support employers and workers by paying salaries and benefits through the economic downturn triggered by the global coronavirus pandemic.

Nationally, the program provided $521 billion in forgivable loans to about 650,000 businesses.

In Maine, the program may have supported as many as 243,370 jobs, according to the newly disclosed federal data. That’s roughly 41 percent of the state’s entire employed workforce in May, when the program was in full effect.

The data released Monday offer the first detailed glimpse into the types of organizations that took advantage of the program. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had resisted calls to release loan details, which are public documents, but then last month he partially relented.

Data released by the SBA include the loan amount, city, state, zip code, industry type and voluntary demographic information such as the owner’s gender, race or ethnicity, but not the business name for any loan of less than $150,000.

The SBA did disclose the names of recipients for any loan above $150,000, but it did not provide the precise loan amount for each. Instead, the SBA divided recipients into tiers based on a range of loan amounts they received.

Companies that received Paycheck Protection Program loans cover nearly every aspect of the state’s private sector economy. Major law firms such as Eaton Peabody and Verrill Dana, notable nonprofits such as the Natural Resources Council of Maine and Catholic Charities of Maine, famed breweries Allagash Brewing Co. and Maine Beer Co., and universities and private schools including Unity College and Thornton Academy were among the organizations receiving loans through the program.

Also on the list were Woodland Pulp in Baileyville, hospitals in Bar Harbor, Machias and elsewhere, and hotel chains such as Migas Hotel Group and Maine Course Hospitality Group.

The publishers of the state’s largest daily newspapers, the Portland Press Herald and Bangor Daily News, also were issued loans of more than $1 million each.

The loan program provided quick financial relief to businesses and nonprofits that agreed to use most of it to keep their staffs on payroll through the business shutdowns and stay-at-home orders this spring. The loans will be forgiven as long as businesses meet program requirements, but any portion not forgiven can be repaid at low interest over a long payback period.

The vast majority of participating Maine organizations – about 24,360 – received loans of $150,000 or less, with some receiving less than $1,000.

But more than 300 companies received loans of more than $1 million each. Nineteen, including a major Dunkin’ Donuts franchise, home health care companies, accounting firms and car dealerships, received loans between $5 million and the maximum amount of $10 million.

Ted Wirth, president and CEO of Portland-based Diversified Communications, watched 90 percent of his company’s revenue disappear this spring as its trade show business was wiped out by the global pandemic.

The company was forced into default and had its bank credit shut off. Wirth credits a $6.1 million paycheck protection loan for saving most of the company’s 290 U.S. workers.

“I know it sounds like a lot of money, but it represents less than 20 percent of our U.S. salaries, benefits and occupancy costs,” Wirth said.

The company has spent the money and is now on better footing, although some employees have been laid off, furloughed or have taken salary cuts. It has canceled most events this year, but is convinced it can make it through to 2021.

“It’s the hardest hit we’ve ever taken, and I’m proud of our people because they have gone through a lot to get our business into a position that we can get it back to where it was,” Wirth said.

Paycheck protection loans were distributed across the state, but major population and service centers received larger shares, according to an analysis of the disclosure data.

Portland, Maine’s biggest city and a financial, entertainment and service center for the state, received 15 percent of loans above $150,000, by far the largest share of any one municipality. Bangor received the second-largest share, at about 6 percent.

In all, companies in 15 towns and cities, including those comprising Greater Portland, Saco-Biddeford, Lewiston-Auburn and Bangor-Brewer, were issued about 52 percent of high-value paycheck protection loans. That is likely because there were more jobs to pay for in those areas and, in the case of some professional companies, compensation was higher to begin with.

Loans of less than $150,000 were disbursed more widely across the state, with only about 31 percent provided to companies in the top 15 towns and cities, again mostly in southern Maine.

Husson University in Bangor received a $5.9 million loan after it sent students home as the pandemic closed in on Maine. The school had to reimburse students more than $2 million in housing and other costs, which put it in a financial bind, said President Robert Clark.

“We are an institution that provides a great amount (of) financial support to students, and keeping our price point among the lowest in New England, we have really a very lean operation and very cost-effective operation,” Clark said.

The loan was used almost entirely to pay about 500 faculty and staff and gave Husson breathing room to figure out what steps to take next, Clark said. The school plans to invite students back to campus this fall and use a hybrid program of online and in-person instruction.

“I don’t know anybody who doesn’t think it is unexpected, what comes next,” he said. “We feel we are in a strong financial situation going forward because of this support.”

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.