Jovita Carranza

Jovita Carranza

Congress left Washington, D.C., without an agreement on a new economic stimulus package, but Jovita Carranza, the administrator of the Small Business Administration since January, is hoping that additional money for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) will be part of the deal.

The program, which stopped accepting new applications Aug. 8, has extended loans to small businesses across the country in order to help keep them afloat amid the turbulence of the coronavirus pandemic. It has given loans to businesses at a 1% interest rate, and allows for forgiveness based on businesses maintaining pre-pandemic head count and wage levels.

“I hope there is a second round of PPP,” Carranza said. In a visit to Pittsburgh Friday, she added that if there is a second round, businesses that applied in the first round might be able to apply for additional relief. Small businesses that meet certain parameters have been eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program, along with independent contractors, sole proprietors of enterprises and self-employed individuals.

Carranza explained that $132 billion in funds still remain from the original relief package. All told about $500 billion has been disbursed to small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program, with about $20 billion of that going to Pennsylvania businesses.

Carranza, the highest-ranking Latina official in the Trump administration, was in Pittsburgh to visit Cilantro & Ajo, a Venezuelan restaurant on the city’s South Side, and to have a small business roundtable. The participants included representatives from the Peters Township Chamber of Commerce, and the Central Assembly of God Church and Central Christian Academy, both in Houston, along with Huntington Bank and the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance.

“I always work a visit to a restaurant in my travels,” Carranza explained. “Not that I want to take a lunch break, but they are the hardest-hit sector.”

Many observers believe the economic disruption caused by the coronavirus will redraw the business landscape of the United States once the pandemic recedes. Carranza acknowledged that some small businesses might not be able to endure, but entrepreneurs “have a spirit of resiliency and will look at other types of business models.”

Will the pandemic be apocalyptic for small businesses? Carranza doesn’t think so.

“Pre-pandemic, small businesses were thriving,” she said. “Post-pandemic, what you don’t read in the news is we have businesses that are doing quite well. A smarter small business ecosystem has been developing during the pandemic. There’s a lot of pent-up energy. I’m very encouraged by the small business recovery I’ve seen.”

Before leading the Small Business Administration, Carranza was the treasurer of the United States, which meant her signature appeared on paper currency printed between 2017 and this year.

Staff Writer

Brad Hundt came to the Observer-Reporter in 1998 after stints at newspapers in Georgia and Michigan. He serves as editorial page editor, and has covered the arts and entertainment and worked as a municipal beat reporter.

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