More than 100 Howard County-based businesses received loans from the Paycheck Protection Program, according to data released last week by the federal government.
The loan program, created to infuse cash into small businesses to prevent layoffs amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, has paid out at least $10 billion to Maryland businesses.
In Maryland, nearly 200 schools received loans that total at least $110 million. Among those private schools to receive loans, which don’t need to be paid back if a certain portion is spent on payroll, is Glenelg Country School in Ellicott City.
After the data was released last week, some questioned why private schools were receiving money that was meant to prevent layoffs at small businesses. In some cases, private schools with high endowments — like McDonogh School in Owings Mills, Gilman School and Boys’ Latin School of Maryland, both in Baltimore — received loans between $2 million and $5 million.
Glenelg Country head of school Greg Ventre doesn’t believe his school falls into that category. Glenelg Country, which has an enrollment of 750 students, received a little over $2 million from the federal program and has an endowment of about $3 million. McDonogh’s endowment is about $74 million, while Gilman’s is $134 million, as of 2017 data.
“Most independent schools, by far, are more likely to be in our category than in McDonogh’s or Gilman’s category,” Ventre said. “Basically, Glenelg Country School is a small, nonprofit corporation. We’re a small business. For our school, I thought it was important for us to apply, and the fact is we qualified for a loan that was important for us and for our families.”
All of the money received from the loan, Ventre said, goes to retaining the school’s 183 staff members.
“We have not had any layoffs,” Ventre said. “These loans are important so we could use whatever revenue we are getting to maintain the campus and pay our bills and use the PPP money to sustain the faculty salary and benefits. That would have been more difficult to do without the PPP money, and that’s what the money and the program was intended for.”
Three other private schools in Ellicott City received smaller loans from the program; Resurrection-St. Paul School and Trinity School both received at least $350,000, while St. John’s Parish Day School got at least $150,000.
Among the critics of the loan program benefiting private schools is U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, whose children attend a private school in Los Angeles that accepted program funds. In May, he tweeted his disapproval, writing: “It has come to our attention that some private schools with significant endowments have taken #PPP loans. They should return them.”
Some wondered where the loss in revenue was for private schools, which are mostly funded by tuition and philanthropy. However, for Glenelg Country, Ventre said the school lost revenue from rentals and summer programs.
“That’s a considerable amount of money for us, and that went down to zero” Ventre said.
Peter Baily, executive director of the Association of Independent Maryland & D.C. Schools, disagrees with the criticism of private schools receiving loans. Many schools have both maintained their buildings and grounds while also incurring costs to roll out online learning programs, he said.
“Part of community life is the person who takes your order in the cafeteria knows your name. The person who drives your bus knows your name and probably your dog’s name,” Baily said. “Our schools wanted to retain and support their employees as much as possible.”
Ventre said Glenelg Country’s endowment, and most endowments, aren’t “like bank accounts” that can be used for everyday costs.
“The other thing is that people misunderstand endowments,” Ventre said. “They’re restricted by the wishes of donors. Some schools have board of trustee policies that allow them to tap into the endowment to supplement their operating expenses. Glenelg Country School does not have that policy, even if it were big enough to make a difference.”
Baltimore Sun reporter Emily Opilo contributed to this article.