As Congress continues to discuss a new bailout, the leading bipartisan proposal includes nearly $300 billion in additional PPP money. But the data from the first round of PPP also shows that many of the businesses that suffered most during the pandemic, didn’t benefit the most as Congress rushed to get money into the economy.

David Rohm, a co-owner of Wild Excellence Films with his wife, received the third smallest PPP loan with a Pittsburgh address, just $475. He says small businesses like his could use a more targeted approach to get through the continued economic downturn.

“Can we just get a little bit to get us through this?” he said. “Because everyone knows damn well we are not through this economically, not even close.”



The biggest industries

The data released by the Small Business Administration on Dec. 1 revealed exactly how much each business received across the country. Previously, the agency only shared a range of how much companies received above $150,000. The program issued more than 5 million loans, totaling $525 billion across the country.

PublicSource* pulled the PPP data for any business that listed “Pennsylvania” as its state and  “Pittsburgh” as its city, including 23 different spellings, such as “pgh” and “Pittsburg.” The largest disbursement in Pittsburgh was $10 million and the smallest was $100.

Law offices in Pittsburgh received more than $80 million, the largest payout of any industry locally. Dickie, McCamey and Chilcote received $7.3 million, the most of any law firm with a Pittsburgh mailing address.

“The legal industry is not immune to the significant impact of the shutdown of non-essential businesses,” said Jeffrey T. Wiley, managing director and chief operating officer of Dickie, McCamey and Chilcot, in a statement emailed to PublicSource. “Despite court closures and a downturn in business, we have avoided lay-offs and other measures and as a result have maintained our pre-COVID level of employment, for which all of us here at Dickie McCamey are grateful.”

Restaurants, which have suffered from shutdown orders and regulations limiting capacity for far longer than many businesses, received more than $60 million, the second most of any industry. The company that runs Dunkin’ Donuts in Pittsburgh, the Heartland Restaurant Group, received more than $3.5 million. Heartland didn’t respond to an interview request.

The company that runs Five Guys and Choolah in the Pittsburgh area, Wholesome Enterprises LLC, received $1.7 million, the most of any “full service” restaurant company. The email listed as the contact information on Wholesome’s website didn’t work.

Whole Enchilada Inc., which runs under the name Big Burrito Restaurant Group and operates the Mad Max restaurant chain and six other restaurants, received $5.6 million but it’s industry was listed as “Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services.” A representative for Big Burrito passed on the email address of its president, Bill Fuller, who didn’t respond.

Large fast food chains that received the funds were criticized for taking funds that were intended to go to small businesses. Shake Shack returned its $10 million award after the controversy. But many individual and regional franchise owners across the country accepted the funds.


The PPP data also underscores the narrative that technology and medical sectors are driving the local economy. The two sectors that received the most PPP funds were the “Professional, Scientific and Technical Services” and “Health Care and Social Assistance” sectors, which together made up more than a third of the total PPP funds distributed.

The largest educational organizations in the city, such as Pittsburgh Public Schools and most of its universities, have more than 500 employees and were not eligible for the PPP program, though they received other COVID-19 assistance. And the largest medical providers, like UPMC and Allegheny Health Network, received COVID assistance through a different CARES Act program.


Using PPP data to estimate Pittsburgh company payrolls

PPP loans were given out to companies and franchises with 500 or fewer employees and the size of the loans was based on their 2019 payroll. Each company was eligible to receive 2.5 months, or about 21%, of their 2019 payroll.

The PPP loans didn’t include any portion of workers’ salaries more than $100,000. The most common PPP loan for a Pittsburgh company with one employee was about $20,833.33, the exact amount a company would receive for 2.5 months of a $100,000 salary.



More than 70% of the organizations that received funding didn’t have an obligation to report its payroll information, including limited liability companies, S corporations, sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability partnerships and some contractors and self-employed individuals.