The amount of their PPP loans, however, can be used to estimate 2019 payroll for these companies. For example, Living Independence for the Elderly Pittsburgh received $4.7 million in PPP funds, the largest payout for any nonprofit in the city. That money represented almost exactly 2.5 months worth of the salary and compensation that the nonprofit reported publicly for 2019.

Rohm, of Wild Excellence Films, said the PPP program’s reliance on 2019 payroll data wasn’t a fair way of making distributions.

“$475 wasn’t even worth my time,” he said. “That’s a joke.”

The business of making wildlife films is intermittent, he said. He said he had plans and contracts worth about $120,000 for work in 2020. But the company only made about $20,000 in 2019, the year the government used to calculate PPP loan amounts. “What if you worked the past four or five years to build up to 2020?” he said. “We lost a lot of business in 2020. It’s about 2020, not about tax returns from 2019. That’s ridiculous.”

In theory, he should’ve received $2,475 in PPP loans, but $2,000 first went to pay off part of an advance he received from another government loan: $10,000 in Economic Injury Disaster Loans [EIDL], a low-interest, 30-year loan that has to be paid back. He used the EIDL money to pay off camera equipment he’d purchased on company credit cards.

He tried to get his PPP loan amount increased, he said, but “that’s a fight I’m not going to win.”

Each business has to fill out a form in order to have their PPP loan forgiven. On Tuesday morning this week Rohm’s bank told him by email that his initial PPP loan calculation was off, and he would have to repay the $475, according to the program’s formula, which he didn’t fully understand.

“Your guess is as good as mine,” he wrote in an email. “But we got a fair deal, it’s just confusing.”

*PublicSource received $122,100 in PPP funds.

Oliver Morrison is PublicSource’s environment and health reporter. He can be reached at oliver@publicsource.org or on Twitter @ORMorrison.

This story was fact-checked by Matt Maielli.