Fairyland, baker, tennis club: a snapshot of pandemic aid in one city

A roster of businesses receiving a piece of the $660 billion U.S. Paycheck Protection Program illustrates how deeply the government’s pandemic aid has reached into the everyday lives of Americans, yet at the same time how unevenly and fleetingly.

Take, for example, Oakland, California, a city of nearly half a million across the bay from San Francisco.

Among those approved for a forgivable loan of at least $150,000, data released Monday showed: the iconic Children’s Fairyland, the zoo, and the city’s best-known ice cream parlor.

Kymberly Miller, Fairyland’s executive director, said she used the $400,000 loan to pay her 56 staff. The funds run out Tuesday.

The outdoor amusement park for the very young has been closed since March, and state health orders look likely to prevent any reopening until August at the earliest.

Financially, Miller said, “we’re on the bubble … it’s not a pretty picture.”

The city’s zoo, too, has depleted its loan, which was between $2 million and $5 million. Fenton’s Creamery, which got its start in Oakland in 1894, got a loan of between $1 million and $2 million.

The Oakland Hills Tennis Club received its loan of between $150,000 and $350,000 in April, when it was closed, and has not been charging members full dues since. In a newsletter published this month on its website, it told members it had depleted its PPP loan and, even as it has partially reopened, has begun to furlough some of its 51 employees. Calls and an email to the club weren’t returned.

Along Telegraph Avenue, which cuts across the city north to south, some 40 recipients included Bay Area Legal Aid, which provides free legal assistance to low-income people; several medical and dental offices; one Korean restaurant among at least a dozen clustered together; and a cannabis sales software firm called Treez.

On College Avenue, which starts in neighboring Berkeley at the University of California campus and ends at the California College of the Arts, 20 different businesses are listed as recipients, including one of Oakland’s best-known pizza shops, Zachary’s, which got between $1 million and $2 million.

La Farine bakery and its neighbor Wood Tavern each got between $350,000 and $1 million, but on the same block the clothing store, which just reopened, and the dog groomer, which has not, are not on the list of recipients, nor are the two restaurants across the street.

It is not clear, though, if those businesses received no aid under PPP because the list of names released by the Treasury Department and Small Business Administration on Monday covered only those approved for $150,000 or more, which accounted for 73% of the disbursed funds. Indeed, the vast majority of loan recipients – more than 4.2 million out of nearly 4.9 million nationally – took less than that amount, with the average loan totaling $107,000.

Oakland businesses received about 7,500 loans, of which 1,100 were for more than $150,000. In all, the loans totaled between $460 million and $1.1 billion, the data shows.