More than 6,000 Island workers — spanning nearly 900 small businesses, nonprofits and sole proprietorships — had their jobs preserved through the federal Paycheck Protection Program, according to a Gazette analysis of government data that became publicly available earlier this week.

Island loan recipients ranged from the Aquinnah cliffs to the Chappy point, covering workers from nearly every type of business and walk of life in all six towns, the data shows. Loans ranged from a few hundred dollars to over $1 million, and recipients included construction companies, landscapers, liquor stores, law firms, nonprofit organizations, caterers, retailers, restaurants, both Island newspapers and even the Chappy Ferry. 

Almost all businesses that applied for loans received them, according to lenders. 

“It was a very high percentage,” said Phil Mercier, head of commercial lending for Martha’s Vineyard Bank, which processed the vast majority of the loans. “There were some applicants that applied that just didn’t qualify based on information they provided, but I would say that was under five per cent.”

A federal relief program run by the Small Business Administration but carried out through local banks, PPP loans became the cornerstone of the Trump administration’s effort to buoy the economy after small businesses faced unprecedented revenue downturns in the wake of the pandemic. The loans have a one per cent interest rate, but will be fully forgiven if used for payroll, mortgage payments or utilities.

Initiated in early April as part of the CARES Act, the program had a hectic start, with Island banks furiously scrambling to field upwards of 800 loan applications within the first two weeks.

“There were emails flying around at 1:30 in the morning as if it was 1:30 in the afternoon,” said James Anthony, president and chief executive officer of Martha’s Vineyard Bank. “Everybody was doing whatever was necessary.”

The program’s first-round requirements also created challenges for the Island’s seasonal economy. Payroll timelines only extended from February to June, shutting out summer workers from the application process. And because the loan program required businesses to use the money within eight weeks of receipt, many businesses, like restaurants, couldn’t accept the money because they were indefinitely closed.

“The intent of the loan did not favor one industry over another, but the reality of it did,” Mr. Anthony said. “Restaurants had a really difficult time with the PPP lending.” 

But unlike many parts of the country, where federal money quickly dried up and left businesses empty-handed even as the pandemic surged onward, Vineyard banks generally got out ahead of the curve, developing their own software, quick fixes and loan processing systems that allowed Island businesses to process and submit a “tidal wave,” as Mr. Anthony put it, of early applications.

Then as the pandemic progressed, the government expanded and altered the loan requirements, with addenda in the second round of lending that allowed businesses on the Island to include seasonal workers in their requests and extending the use timeline to six months, aiding some restaurants and retailers that had previously been left out.

Mr. Anthony said the early work by the Island banks to secure loans paid off, providing relatively comprehensive coverage across the Vineyard.

Martha’s Vineyard Bank processed about 70 per cent of all the loans, while Rockland Trust processed about 15 per cent and Cape Cod Five processed about ten per cent.  

“Overall, I think in my opinion this was a resounding success,” Mr. Anthony said.

Although the loan program has been recently extended to August 8, most Island businesses received their money in spring or early summer. The government data that became available this week paints a broad picture of the program’s impact on the Vineyard, showing how the pandemic reached every corner of the Island, from large companies with nearly 200 employees to sole proprietors.

While Mr. Anthony and Mr. Mercier said some gaps existed, including a lack of aid for landlords and certain seasonal businesses, and that abuses of the loans can of course can occur, they both felt that the program worked as intended on the Island. 

“I suspect that when we look back on this, and we look at the percentage of abuses, we will find them to be de minimis to the overall program,” Mr. Anthony said. “And I think overall the program did a wonderful job.”

The government data is broken down into two categories: businesses that received loans larger than $150,000 and businesses that received smaller loans. The data only lists the names of businesses that received loans excess of $150,000. Monetary amounts are not specific but broken down into strata.

Three Island organizations received in excess of $1 million: Donaroma’s Nursery and Landscaping Services, The Black Dog Tavern and the nonprofit Martha’s Vineyard Community Services. In total, those businesses retained 393 jobs — Donaroma’s retained 89, the Black Dog kept 179 jobs and Community Services kept 125.

Nineteen Island organizations received between $350,000 and $1 million, including the Vineyard Gazette, which employs 35 people year-round. In total, those businesses retained 993 jobs. The YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard was the only nonprofit to receive between $350,000 and $1 million, retaining 46 jobs.

Another 55 businesses and five nonprofits received loans between $150,000 and $350,000. Those businesses ranged from restaurants to farms to hardware stores to caterers. Nonprofits included the Vineyard Trust, Island Grown Initiative, Island Health Care and the Martha’s Vineyard Museum. The Martha’s Vineyard Commission also received a loan in this category, as did the Martha’s Vineyard Times. Organizations in this category retained 1,218 jobs through the loans.

Overall, the 83 organizations that received more than $150,000 on the Island retained a total of 2,604 jobs.

But the vast majority of Island businesses to receive federal aid were smaller enterprises, with most having fewer than 10 employees and many having only one. The breakdown by town for organizations that received less than $150,000 is as follows: 

• In Aquinnah, 14 small organizations, including one nonprofit, retained a total of 52 jobs through the loans.

• In Chilmark, 44 small organizations, including three nonprofits, retained a total of 269 jobs through the loans.

• In West Tisbury, 94 small organizations, including four nonprofits, retained a total of 347 jobs through the loans.

• In Tisbury, 261 small organizations, including 18 nonprofits, retained a total of 1,101 jobs through the loans.

• In Oak Bluffs, 148 small organizations, including five nonprofits, retained a total of 832 jobs through the loans.

• And in Edgartown, 188 small organizations, including seven nonprofits, retained a total of 731 jobs through the loans.

• Overall, the 772 small businesses that received under $150,000 were able to keep a total of 3,408 Island workers on their payroll.

Speaking broadly about the loan procurement process on Thursday, Mr. Anthony expressed gratitude and excitement when told that loans from Martha’s Vineyard Bank likely retained in excess of 4,000 jobs. 

“I’ve heard back from business owners who have approached me in the grocery store or in the street have said that, hey, you know, that PPP loan was the difference between me reopening the doors, and closing forever,” he said. “And that’s not accolades to us, that’s the program, I think, working."

A full list of Island businesses and nonprofits that received PPP loans larger than $150,000 can be found here