Banks will make out with $18 billion in fees for processing small business Paycheck Protection Program relief loans during the pandemic, according to calculations by Amanda Fischer, policy director at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a progressive economic think tank.
That’s money taken directly out of the overall $640 billion pot of funding Congress allocated to the program it created as part of the CARES Act. “If we did it through a public institution, there would be [more than] $140 billion left,” Fischer noted, as opposed to the $130 billion still up for grabs. The Washington Center for Equitable Growth is releasing an analysis of the government response to the pandemic as soon as this week.
The fees compensate the banks for some of the costs that come with processing loans — call center time to handle business owners’ questions, employee hours spent on processing paperwork for both loan and forgiveness applications — and some of the risk they shoulder if any of the loans they extend end up being fraudulent. But there is no credit risk; if business owners who qualified for PPP loans later default, the Small Business Association takes the hit, not the banks. “Basically it’s free money,” Fischer said.
For some banks, this money represents a hefty windfall. New Jersey-based Cross River Bank’s estimated $163 million haul would be more than double its net revenue last year. JPMorgan Chase could make $864 million.