Hundreds of millions of dollars have flowed into the Merrimack Valley and southern New Hampshire tied to more than 6,000 government loans meant to shore up businesses and nonprofit groups hurt by the economic fallout of the coronavirus, according to data released recently.

Haverhill Bank is one of thousands of financial institutions nationally, and dozens in New England, helping businesses apply for the loans. It has processed 340 loans totaling over $44 million since the start of the program, Assistant Vice President James Henebry said.

The bank was able to get money to customers shortly after the applications opened on April 10.

"Like most financial institutions, Haverhill Bank had to quickly learn the guidelines of the program," Henebry wrote in an email. "Once understood, our team developed a document management (and) request system that allowed us to efficiently review new applications, process, and close loans quickly, some in less than a day. We created a system to accommodate customers that were both tech and non-tech savvy."

Now the bank is helping businesses get the loans forgiven, though the process isn't as easy as submitting an application. Henerby said the bank is working with customers to answer questions and help businesses with the process.

The bank is still accepting loan applications, since the federal government extended the program through Aug. 8. As of the end of June, the SBA still had $134 billion in funding for the loans.

 

The loans helped businesses such as Haas Dental Associates in Derry hire back all 47 employees who were laid off because of the pandemic, said Chrissy Coruth, practice manager. A loan covering eight weeks of payroll helped the practice get through a stretch when dentists could not accept patients, she said.

Because of the loan, Coruth said employees were able to come back to prepare the office for patients and complete remote safety training.

"We were able to do quite a bit of preparation. We had to change a lot of things in our office to have safe treatment provided, with COVID-19," she said. "We cleaned, painted, upgraded the air system, purification system in the office, and did everything we could (to) get it clean and safe."

Records released by the U.S. Small Business Administration showed the practice received a loan of $150,000 to $350,000 — one of 4.9 million loans issued under the Paycheck Protection Program since early April.

The $521 billion issued nationally is meant as a lifeline to businesses, mostly for payroll costs, with some allowed for mortgage interest, rent and utilities. Loans are forgivable if a business keeps its workers on the payroll, at the same salary.

Nearly 1,000 businesses, sole proprietors and nonprofit groups in the Merrimack Valley and southern New Hampshire were granted loans of over $150,000, according to data released by the SBA last week.

More than 5,000 loans were issued for amounts under $150,000.

Individual loan amounts were not disclosed by the SBA, and businesses receiving less than $150,000 were not identified.

Nationally each loan averaged $106,542, according to the SBA.

Catholic Central High School in Lawrence received $1.8 million to help cover its payroll, President Christopher Sullivan said.

"We used it for just what it was for — we used it for payroll," he said. "We were fortunate. We kept folks employed and didn't have to furlough anyone or lay anybody off. That included our hourly employees, main office staff, custodial staff. We were fortunate. It was a godsend for us."

After the school closed due to the pandemic, students continued to learn remotely. The school did not give back tuition, but Sullivan said the loan helped cover costs that some families would not have been able to afford otherwise.

"We got the message to families saying, 'Look, if your situation has changed,' which many did, 'reach out to us.' And we were able to create additional financial aid for families whose situations changed because of the pandemic," he said. "We didn't do it as a blanket policy. We dealt with families individually whose situations changed. We were able to create financial aid situations for them that we might not have been in a position to do if we had not received the PPP money."

Canobie Lake Park in Salem, New Hampshire, received $2 million to $5 million, according to the SBA data. The park is set to open Thursday at 25% capacity to ensure social distancing.

"With the capacity limitations, the revenue is already far below what we would normally get," said Chris Nicoli, the park's media and entertainment manager. "... That will help chip away at everything we have to pay on an annual basis."

The park is using its loan to maintain and grow its payroll, Nicoli said, adding that it still needs a full summer staff, even at limited capacity.

In the first day of seasonal hiring, the park received over 500 applications and is currently working to hire more people for the summer, he said.

As part of the loan applications, some businesses reported demographic information, though doing so was voluntary and the vast majority did not.

Of area recipients that identified themselves, 29 business owners are Asian; six are Black; 64 are Hispanic; one is Native American; and 538 are white, according to the data. Men outnumbered women as loan recipients, 1,214 to 290.

Fifty business owners identified themselves as veterans.

Overall in Massachusetts, 111,152 businesses received loans, and in New Hampshire, 23,496 businesses received loans as of June 27, according to the SBA's report.

More about the Paycheck Protection Program loans, including a list of local lenders, is available at www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/paycheck-protection-program.

The deadline for the program is Aug. 8.

 

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