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OSF, Timber Companies, Medical Groups: Hundreds Of Local Businesses Getting Federal Loan Dollars

Jenny Graham / Oregon Shakespeare Festival
The Copper Children was among the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's 2020 season performances that were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The federal Paycheck Protection Program is supposed to do just that: protect employee’s paychecks from the economic impact of the coronavirus. But some businesses like the Oregon Shakespeare Festival can’t rehire workers if there’s no work to be done.

OSF is among a handful of businesses in the region that got more than $5 million in PPP loan funds from the Small Business Administration. When that loan was approved back in April, it was intended to preserve about 120 jobs at the regional theater company.

But OSF has still gone through multiple rounds of layoffs, and now it’s down to a staff of 70 — less than a quarter of its normal size.

That’s because OSF can’t use the loan to rehire employees until it can start putting on shows again, according to acting executive director Paul Christy.

“So right now we're using it to pay the employees and the benefits and the mortgage interest and the rent and utilities just to keep us going through the rest of this year so that when the end of the year comes we can mount a 2021 season,” Christy says.

OSF is also set to get nearly $5 million from Oregon’s Coronavirus Relief Fund, a pot of $50 million the state received in federal aid. OSF was the top beneficiary among a long list of arts organizations that received funds.

Federal PPP data released last week shows hundreds of other local businesses were among the recipients, including several logging companies, vineyards, contractors, and restaurants.

In addition to OSF, other businesses getting the most PPP dollars include a couple of hospital groups, including the North Bend Medical Center in Coos Bay and the Lake Health District in Lakeview.

Also on the list are the Swanson Group, a timber company out of Roseburg, and a company that manages the Black Bear Diner franchise.

Nationally, PPP loans add up to more than $500 billion. Many businesses are applying for loan forgiveness. Otherwise, they have up to 5 years to pay them off.

April Ehrlich is an editor and reporter at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Previously, she was a news host and reporter at Jefferson Public Radio.