When the coronavirus pandemic overtook the United States in the spring of 2020, it interrupted huge swathes of the economy and shut down countless small businesses. In response, the federal government developed the Paycheck Protection Program, one of the largest financial bailouts since the Great Depression.
Over the course of one year, the program injected more than $ 770 billion into businesses across the country. Yet like so many resources in America, these funds did not reach most of the people who needed them most.
We analyzed over 5 million PPP loans and found widespread disparities in the way the money was distributed. Indeed, in the vast majority of metropolitan areas of 1 million inhabitants or more, we found that the loan rate to predominantly white regions was higher than the rates of all predominantly Latin, black or Asian regions. We have also uncovered disturbing trends among several leading lending institutions.
Our analysis, the very first look at how P3 loans were distributed at the census tract level, stems from a huge dataset we acquired after multiple news outlets sued the Small Business Administration in May. 2020.
Today, as the pandemic subsides and Americans reappear from their homes, the economy that awaits them is different from what it used to be: Separated further into the haves and have-nots, it is split along generation-old racial fault lines that stubbornly persist.
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This story was produced with support from the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships and Big Local News at Stanford University.