Georgia businesses from every corner of economy get relief loans

Ponder’s Cleaners owner Roderick Ponder waits for customers in Atlanta on June 13, 2020. BRANDEN CAMP FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Ponder’s Cleaners owner Roderick Ponder waits for customers in Atlanta on June 13, 2020. BRANDEN CAMP FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, roughly 152,000 federal relief loans have been issued to Georgia businesses of every size and from every sector, according to details released Monday.

Many recognizable metro Atlanta companies secured funding through the $600 billion Paycheck Protection Program — from automotive dealerships in the Jim Ellis chain to private colleges like Oglethorpe University. Loan recipients also included hundreds of restaurants, medical practice groups and law firms.

The Georgia loans — which totaled $14.4 billion as of June 27 — represent about 55% of the 278,000 active small businesses in the state, according to the National Federation of Independent Business. About 18,300 companies in the state received loans of between $150,000 and $10 million, and another 139,000 state-based businesses obtained loans of less than $150,000, according to the Small Business Administration. The loans helped companies retain more than 800,000 jobs.

The SBA report did not provide complete information on loan size or borrowers’ names for all issued loans, making it difficult to draw broad conclusions. For example, the agency did not disclose the names of businesses that obtained loans of less than $150,000.

But the report does include estimates from companies that received bigger loans about the number of jobs saved.

Jim Ellis Atlanta and Jim Ellis Volkswagen, according to Monday’s report, estimated that the loans helped them retain about 870 jobs.

For weeks, the SBA resisted providing detailed information. After a group of news and open-government organizations sued the government, arguing that it’s in the public interest to know who received money and the size of loans, the SBA released additional details.

The identities of many borrowers had been announced prior to Monday's report. Two of those include Samson Tours, a charter bus company in Hapeville, and Ponder's 60 Minutes Cleaners in the Ben Hill community, the city's oldest Black-owned dry cleaners.

Businesses tied to Georgia’s elected officials also got loans. An Augusta construction company previously controlled by U.S. Rep. Rick Allen, R-Ga., got a loan of between $350,000 and $1 million. A Bonaire-based trucking company called Perdue Inc., affiliated with former Gov. Sonny Perdue and his wife, Mary, received a loan of between $150,000 and $300,000. The company is indirectly owned by a trust that’s majority-owned by Perdue’s children, according to a statement issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Lawmakers and other federal officials were exempted from ethics laws that apply to other programs that are designed to limit conflicts of interest.

Outside Georgia, dozens of well-known companies obtained relief loans.

The Trump administration last week extended the application deadline to Aug. 8 for the second round of PPP loans, as about $130 billion remains available. The loans can be forgiven if borrowers use the proceeds to pay wages and rent and meet other conditions.

Staff writer Tamar Hallerman contributed to this article.

Editor’s note: This article was updated to clarify that Rep. Rick Allen no longer owns a majority stake in a construction company. The update also includes additional details about former Gov. Sonny Perdue’s affiliation with a company.