As applications open for a second round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, ASTC analyzed publicly available data from the first round of loans, which were made to eligible small businesses—including nonprofits—April 3, 2020, through August 8, 2020.
PPP loans have provided an essential lifeline to our member organizations along with many others. Our community has been especially hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic since ASTC-member science centers and museums depend upon earned revenue for about half of their annual income. Earned revenue—which includes admissions, education and program fees, memberships, and facilities rental—essentially dropped to zero during extended closures. And even for institutions that have at least partially reopened, visitor attendance is down about 74 percent from the same period in 2019.
Nearly 300 Science Center/Museum Members of the Association of Science and Technology Centers received at least $180.4 million in PPP loans during the initial term of the program. Each of these nonprofit or public science centers or museums, nature centers, aquariums, planetariums, zoos, botanical gardens, space theaters, natural history museums, and children’s museums share an interest in inquiry-based learning and participatory science education.
In addition, more than 50 Allied Members received at least $44.7 million in first-round PPP loans. This is a diverse category of members that currently includes companies and independent contractors serving the field, emerging science centers and museums not yet open to the public, foundations, scientific societies, community organizations, government agencies, and more.
The PPP loan program, which is run by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), was initially intended to cover eight weeks of payroll and benefits, along with other essential expenses such as rent/mortgage, and utilities. If at least 60 percent of the loan is spent on keeping staff during the pandemic, the loan is likely to be fully forgivable, essentially turning the loan into a grant. During the four months of the program, lenders approved by SBA made more than 5.2 million loans for a total of $525 billion.
The initial round of loans was available to small businesses—including nonprofits—with 500 or fewer total employees. This meant that some of ASTC’s largest members were ineligible for PPP loans, along with organizations affiliated with a university or government entity.
As a result, we calculate that of ASTC’s science center/museum members eligible for PPP loans, more than 85 percent received them with amounts ranging from $3,600 to $8.1 million with a median of $227,000. For Allied Members, we estimate that more than 40 percent received PPP loans in amounts ranging from $9,000 to $4.5 million with a median of $304,000.
If the need from the ASTC community was more than $225 million for eight weeks, the cumulative needs of the community from the beginning of the pandemic through today is above $1.25 billion. ASTC continues to work with its fellow associations to continue to make the case for relief and recovery support for our community. (See how you can help.)