Ong on COVID-19 Relief for Vulnerable Businesses

Paul Ong, director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge at UCLA Luskin, spoke to Marketplace about new rules guiding the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program. Since its inception, the COVID-19 relief program has distributed more than $600 billion in business loans, but those funds have disproportionately gone to larger, more established companies that are better able to navigate the application process. So for two weeks, the PPP will be open only to the smallest companies, ones that employ fewer than 20 people. While the change is an attempt to level the playing field, Ong said that prioritizing according to company size alone won’t address all disparities. He recommended targeting businesses in vulnerable neighborhoods, as previous rounds of PPP funding favored majority-white neighborhoods in California over communities of color. “I would like to see much more fine-tuning in terms of, how do we prioritize?” Ong said.

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