Anecdotes like Mr. Geismann’s, nonetheless, aren’t simple to interpret. Maybe Schuchart and corporations like it could have discovered one other approach to make ends meet, or would have rehired employees rapidly as soon as development initiatives resumed.

Economists have tried to reply that query utilizing information. Mr. Autor in contrast corporations with just below 500 workers — which might qualify for this system’s unique model — with these simply above that measurement, which couldn’t. If the loans had been an enormous assist, then the smaller corporations ought to have retained many extra of their employees. As an alternative, Mr. Autor discovered little distinction between the 2 teams.

However some economists argue that such analysis understates this system’s impression as a result of it fails to concentrate on the smallest companies, which had been much less more likely to have massive money reserves or different financing.

One paper, based mostly on a survey of companies in Oakland, Calif., discovered that these receiving P.P.P. loans had been 20.5 p.c extra more likely to say they anticipated to outlive six months — however that the comparatively higher optimism was restricted to companies with fewer than 5 workers.

Robert Bartlett, one of many Oakland research’s authors, stated economists like Mr. Autor is likely to be proper that P.P.P. saved fewer jobs than hoped. “However for these small companies, I feel it helped them maintain their doorways open,” he stated. “I’m satisfied of that.” Lots of these companies, he famous, are in poor neighborhoods or are owned by racial or ethnic minorities.

Daniel G. Guerra Jr. based AltusLearn, which supplies coaching and compliance programs to medical employees, in 2013. By final yr the corporate, based mostly in Madison, Wis., had six workers and was on observe for a yr of serious development.

As an alternative, when the pandemic started, medical facilities halted just about all nonurgent care and canceled coaching.