We’re beginning to see more details outlining the economic havoc the corornavirus is wreaking on the Arkansas and U.S. economies. Emergency funds set up by the state and federal governments to help small businesses stay afloat have been exhausted – no emergency money is available unless the supply is replenished.
A $349 billion federal loan fund to support small businesses opened on April 3. State funding of a $5 million effort to provide bridge loans to small businesses began at the end of March. Both funds are depleted.
Loan details reveal that small businesses are not going hog wild in adding debt; they seem to be borrowing what they need to keep people employed and pay the bills. Though funding of up to $10 million was available to any small business in the country, the average Small Business Administration loan was just under $240,000.
Indeed, 70% of the loans made across the nation were for less than $150,000. The figures were released last week by the SBA.
Local statistics are similar.
Home BancShares Inc., in reporting first-quarter earnings on Thursday, said its average loan under the SBA program was $160,000. The bank recorded more than $875 million in loans to small businesses through the SBA program.
More than 5,000 lenders nationwide participated as the U.S. Small Business Administration churned through $349 billion in economic aid in about two weeks. SBA said it processed 14 years’ worth of loans in just 14 days.
Small businesses pounced on favorable loan conditions established to inject cash into companies as quickly as possible. The new and popular Paycheck Protection Program offered small businesses eight weeks of essentially free payroll and business expenses for retaining employees.
Through local lenders, SBA issued more than 1.6 million loans nationally to small businesses in virtually every sector of the economy.
In Arkansas, the agency approved about 14,800 loans valued at $2.1 billion. There are about 249,000 small businesses operating in Arkansas.
The needs of those businesses also depleted the $5 million quick loan fund started by Gov. Asa Hutchinson to lend $25,000 to businesses with fewer than 50 employees. The fund supported 245 companies in literally every corner of Arkansas.
No information was available on the loans by economic sector, but the state’s largest counties by population also received the most loans: with Pulaski (30 loans) leading the way followed by Washington (17 loans), Benton (12 loans) and Sebastian (9 loans). The exception was Union County, which had 13 loans – the third-most from the quick fund.
SBA provided details by economic sector for the federal aid, which was part of the $2.2 trillion emergency economic support plan approved by Congress on March 27.
The construction sector has received the largest share of approved dollars reaching about $34 billion, or 14% of the total amount. Professional, scientific, and tech services account for the largest number of approved loans with 126,372 – a total of about $31 billion, or 12% of the total.
Those industries were followed by manufacturing at $30.4 billion, or 12%; health care at $28 billion, or 11%; accommodation and food services at $23 billion, or 9%. Retail was next with about $21.2 billion, or just under 9% of the total loans approved.
SBA allowed small businesses to borrow up to $10 million at about a 1% interest rate, with no fees and deferred payments available.
The great majority of the loans approved – more than 725,000, or 70% of the number of loans issued – were for $150,000 or less. About 15% of the loans ranged from $150,000 to $350,000. Another 10% of the loan volume was in the $350,000 to $1 million range.
Only about 5% of the loans were valued at more than $1 million. However, companies that borrowed more than $1 million took nearly half of the $349 billion available.
That federal emergency package also included a provision to send $1,200 to individuals who earn less than $75,000 a year and $2,400 to joint-filing families earning less than $150,000 annually. Economic assistance included an additional $500 per child.
The IRS announced last week that $290 billion in relief had been deposited into individual checking accounts across the nation. Checks are deposited based on bank account information the IRS has on file from taxpayers. Paper checks will be mailed to those who have not filed their direct deposit details with the IRS.
If you have not received your check, the IRS has built a “Get My Payment” tool — www.irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment — to check on the status of your money. The site is updated overnight and you only have to check once a day. The agency says all checks should be issued over the next few weeks.
For those who don’t have bank accounts and want to speed up delivery of the money, Bank On Arkansas+ is offering access to certified checking accounts. More information is available at bankonar.org.
Last week, President Donald Trump announced he was enlisting business advisers to help shape his plans to reopen the economy.
Six prominent Arkansas business leaders have been invited to participate in what the president calls the Great American Economic Revival Industry Groups. The groups focus on every major economic sector and include more than 50 leading executives.
Arkansas business leaders invited to participate include: Dean Banks of Tyson Foods Inc.; Ronnie Cameron of Mountaire Farms; Darrin Williams of Southern Bancorp; Doug Mc-Millon of Walmart Inc.; John Roberts III of J.B. Hunt Transport Services Inc.; and Warren Stephens of Stephens Inc.
SOLAR SHINES ON
Arkansas recorded the largest annual increase in the number of net-metering systems ever in 2019, the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association reported last week.
The trade group said a total of 2,320 net-metering systems were in Arkansas at the end of 2019. That was a net increase of 812, up nearly 54%, from 2018 year-end figures. The great majority of those systems were solar but do include solar-wind and wind-only systems.
Figures were gathered based on filings at the Arkansas Public Service Commission.
“The solar sector can maintain its role as an important economic driver in Arkansas – with tremendous opportunity ahead – if policies continue to align with solar’s economic benefits,” said Katie Laning Niebaum, executive director of the association.
Solar advocates, utility companies and large industrial electricity users are still awaiting a decision from state regulators on key issues involving net-metering, including how solar users will be compensated for excess electricity they generate and return to the power grid.
Clark Contractors of Little Rock announced it finished 2019 with record revenue of more than $156 million.
“I am so proud of the success of our company and firmly believe that our great results are rooted in the hard work and dedication of the Clark Contractors team,” said William Clark, CEO of Clark Contractors.
The company recently finished the Embassy Suites/ Red Wolf Convention Center project in Jonesboro. The facility adds more than 200 hotel rooms, 40,000 square feet of meeting space and a 15,000-square-foot ballroom to support growth around Arkansas State University and throughout northeast Arkansas.
Clark Contractors was founded in 2009 and has offices in Little Rock, Bentonville and Southlake, Texas.