Thousands of construction and design firm from all parts of the U.S. appear on lists of companies that have received federal Paycheck Protection Program forgivable loans, according to federal documents just made public.
The PPP lists, which the U.S. Treasury Dept. and U.S. Small Business Administration released on July 6, do not specify individual loan figures, but instead categorize recipients according to several broad ranges of loan amounts. ENR calculates, using applicants' self-reported NAICS codes, that more than 101,000 industry companies received a loan between April 3 and June 30 of $150,000 or greater.
During that same period, loans to AEC firms made up about 15.3% of all PPP loans valued over $150,000. The recipients do not include many construction-related firms, such as ready-mix manufacturers, interior designers and equipment companies.
The lists also reveal that 839 AEC companies received PPP loans valued between $5 million and the program's maximum of $10 million—roughly 17% of the total number of firms in this largest category of loan recipients.
|No. of AEC Loan Recipients||Loan Size|
|839||$5 million to $10 million|
|3,816||$2 million to $5 million|
|8,490||$1 million to $2 million|
|32,453||$350,000 to $1 million|
|55,484||$150,000 to $350,000|
The information includes both national and state-by-state lists. Among recipients are several hundred firms that regularly appear on ENR's Top 400 Contractors, Top 500 Design Firms and Top 600 Specialty Contractors lists.
The construction industry has ranked among the most prolific in its use of PPP funds. The program, established under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Ac (CARES), is intended to help small businesses and nonprofit organizations—and their workers—withstand the severe economic impacts from the coronavirus pandemic. One requirement is that companies must use 60% of loan proceeds for payroll.
Jeff Urbanchuk, a spokesman for the American Council of Engineering Companies, said via email that ACEC members have been "early adopters" of the program.
He says that PPP "has been very helpful as a backstop to an uncertain economy, and this is particularly true for engineering and other professional service firms in the built environment as projects slowed down because of declining state budgets and reduced gas tax revenue."
Ken Simonson, Associated General Contractors' chief economist, said via email that PPP is one factor behind construction's gain of 158,000 jobs in June. An AGC survey showed that as of May 21, 77% of responding companies had been approved for PPP loans and had begun using the funds.
According to ENR's analysis of SBA data, the approved AEC applicants pledged to "retain" more than 3.7 million jobs due to the PPP loans.
Simonson also cites state and local governments’ easing or ending restrictions on construction jobsites in the early spring for the industry's job growth.
But he warns, “These were one-time effects.” Simonson adds that if Congress doesn’t approve more funds for construction projects, “construction firms will be forced to lay off workers in even greater numbers than before, once their PPP loans are exhausted.”
Construction ranked third among business sectors in dollar volume of PPP loans approved, totaling $64.6 billion as of June 30. Health care-social assistance led the sectors, with professional, scientific and technical services ranked second.
Construction’s amount represented 12.4% of the $521.5 billion net total of PPP loans. The industry also ranked fourth in number of PPP loans approved, with 466,221 through June 30.
PPP is still in operation and loan applications will be accepted through Aug. 8, if funding is available. The government still had $131.9 billion available to lend under program as of June 30.