Cheryl W. Thompson

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

NOEL KING, HOST:

Updated on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020, at 10:52 am ET:

Since this story's publication, Curtis Lang Sr., 62, a convicted rapist who repeatedly failed to register as a sex offender, was arrested by the U.S. Marshals Service in Washington, D.C. He was charged with one count of failing to register as a sex offender, according to federal officials. Lang was arraigned Oct. 20 in D.C. Superior Court. He pleaded not guilty and was released, according to court records. He is due back in court in March 2021.

When nurses and doctors across the country were struggling to treat coronavirus patients without enough protective gear, and the federal government was scrambling to find those supplies, Quedon Baul saw an opportunity.

His three-person company in McKinney, Texas, distributes medical supplies but didn't have much experience with face shields. Still, he landed two government contracts worth up to $20 million to deliver the personal protective equipment. He couldn't meet the first deadline, so he found subcontractors to do the job.

Trish Pugh started an Ohio trucking company with her husband in 2015. Even for a small business, it's small — they had two drivers, counting her husband, until they let one go because of the coronavirus crisis.

And so her company applied for a loan under the first, $349 billion round of the Paycheck Protection Program, which the federal government had set up to rescue small businesses.

It didn't go well.

Small and struggling. Those were the companies meant to be helped by the Paycheck Protection Program, which offers loans to small businesses clobbered by the shutdown of the economy.

The program has helped many such companies. But the law's fine print didn't close all loopholes. Large companies, we now know, got loans. And, now it appears that companies didn't have to be struggling to win a loan, either.

Banks handling the government's $349 billion loan program for small businesses made more than $10 billion in fees — even as tens of thousands of small businesses were shut out of the program, according to an analysis of financial records by NPR.

The banks took in the fees while processing loans that required less vetting than regular bank loans and had little risk for the banks, the records show. Taxpayers provided the money for the loans, which were guaranteed by the Small Business Administration.