The Ignominious Life of the Paycheck Protection Program

53 Pages Posted: 20 Aug 2020 Last revised: 24 Aug 2020

Date Written: July 26, 2020


The COVID-19 pandemic gravely endangers the health of millions of Americans. Private and public safety measures adopted to reduce infection, however, are also a source of existential risk. As U.S. infection rates increased in early March, 2020, unemployment and business dislocation surged. The bipartisan Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) represents the first and largest federal attempt to manage economic fallout from the pandemic. The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is a lynchpin of the CARES Act. The PPP seeks to mitigate unemployment and closures in several vulnerable sectors of the economy including among tens of millions of small businesses, not-for-profits, and self-employed individuals. The PPP has disbursed over $500 billion to these sectors, providing a lifeline to millions of employees. Nevertheless, media, lawmakers and economists have criticized the PPP for inefficiently or inequitably distributing funds. This Article is the first work of legal scholarship that explains and examines the PPP. As a case study, this Article also provides insight into the design of economic interventions and their limitations as well as how the lawmaking process generates a narrative allocating responsibility for social trauma.

Keywords: Paycheck Protection Program, loan, CARES Act, food, hospitality, cafe, restaurant, Congress, COVID-19, coronavirus, health measure, employment, SBA, small business administration, Treasury, rulemaking, guidance, administrative law, rule of law, media, design, pandemic, social distancing

Suggested Citation

Beylin, Ilya, The Ignominious Life of the Paycheck Protection Program (July 26, 2020). Available at SSRN: or

Ilya Beylin (Contact Author)

Seton Hall Law School ( email )

One Newark Center
Newark, NJ 07102
United States

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