Part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by US lawmakers in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Paycheck Protection Program was designed to help small businesses retain their employees during COVID-induced economic shutdowns. Employers could apply through banks for loans from the Small Business Administration, some of which could be forgiven, depending on how the funds were used.

Following the rollout of the program, some have questioned the distribution of those funds—Chicago Booth’s João Granja, Constantine Yannelis, and Eric Zwick and MIT’s Christos Makridis, for instance, find that businesses in areas hardest hit by the pandemic and its economic fallout were actually less likely to receive PPP funds than businesses elsewhere. But Washington University’s John Barrios says that the program was designed to mirror the distribution of payroll across the country, rather than anticipating which areas would need the most help. And while it’s fair to scrutinize, question, or criticize the design and goals of the program, Barrios says, the PPP does appear to have been implemented as intended, with PPP funds distributed broadly in line with payroll levels throughout the US.

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