There are many ways to measure the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had in the U.S. and around the world. The most obvious is the total numbers of positive cases and deaths that have been reported, data that is updated on a daily basis.
Arguably the next most important barometer has been the number of jobs that have been lost—some temporarily, others permanently—as unemployment claims set records week after week back in the spring.
As bad as those numbers were, though, they could have been much worse if not for the Paycheck Protection Program that was a key part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Thus far, more than $500 billion in loans have been administered through the Small Business Administration.
It was good to see a large number of employers in rubber-related businesses participate in an effort to keep staff employed during the business downturn. According to recently released data, nearly 1,200 companies were granted loans in six rubber-related sectors that directly helped retain roughly 30,000 jobs.
It was difficult to pinpoint how much aid was received specifically by each company because the loans per business were reported with a low and high range. Within those parameters, the SBA reported firms in the sectors analyzed by Rubber & Plastics News received somewhere between $287 million and $640 million. The areas covered included businesses related to tire manufacturing (other than retreading); synthetic rubber; rubber and plastics hose and belting; mechanical rubber goods production; and "all other" rubber product manufacturing.
Companies that persevered through such early problems of ambiguous eligibility thresholds and loan forgiveness issues were rewarded for their efforts. Some companies that had laid people off were able to bring back workers because of the loans, while others staved off having to make any layoffs at all.
One industry supplier said having the extra cash available even allowed the firm to pass its good fortune down the supply chain to a customer having cash flow issues, giving that customer an extra month to pay an invoice.
It helped that as the PPP program moved forward, the rules were expanded on how the money could be used and over what period of time. Companies that may have been on the fence over applying for help were able to collect advice before moving forward.
Another supplier initially didn't consider applying for PPP funding. But as the business slowdown continued, the firm's CEO changed his mind. He weighed how much money the firm had paid in a wide variety of taxes and wages over the years, and decided that his desire to keep employees on the job through the pandemic was exactly what the PPP program was designed for.
Right now, there are about 30,000 people in the rubber industry who definitely would agree.