Rapid Response Team Helped Utah Small Business Apply for PPP Loans

During the earliest days of the pandemic, the Rapid Response Team (RRT) was created to handle inquiries from Utah small businesses during the rollout of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The RRT, comprised of a group of volunteers, provided leverage to the Small Business Administration (SBA) and Utah lender community by answering questions from Utah small businesses and helping them to successfully apply for PPP loans.

Over the entire course of the PPP program, the RRT handled roughly 2,100 inquiries from Utah small businesses, with Hope Corps volunteers reaching out to over 6,000 businesses. In the final PPP Report from the SBA (as of 6/30/2020), Utah led the nation with PPP approved loans covering 93% of the eligible small-business payroll. The RRT helped ensure over 50,000 loans ($4.3B) for Utah businesses with over $1.3B in loans to Historically Underutilized Business Zones.

Formation of the RRT

In March 2020, Governor Gary Herbert appointed Salt Lake Chamber President and CEO Derek Miller to chair the Utah Economic Response Task Force, which in turn brought together business, government and community leaders throughout the state to create “Utah Leads Together,” a comprehensive task force plan to mitigate the economic consequences of COVID-19 and return Utah to the record-setting growth it enjoyed prior to the pandemic.

The task force included eight working groups, each developed priorities within its assigned topic and coordinated with the task force committee guided by Utah Leads Together.

Miles Hansen, CEO of World Trade Center Utah (WTC Utah) led the Federal Resources working committee, collaborating with leaders across the Economic Response Task Force and within WTC Utah to recruit and organize volunteers to form the Rapid Response Team (RRT). Operating procedures, FAQs, and training material were created urgently, and the RRT was operational and published as a statewide business resource by April 1, 2020.

The mandate of the Federal Resources working group was to maximize utilization of federal resources.

RRT in Action

At its peak, the RRT included 47 service representatives, three team leaders, two managers, and an oversight group. Through a press coverage, online and social media, the Utah Economic Response Task Force and its members directed small business with questions about the PPP to the RRT. The outreach also included targeted efforts to reach underserved or rural communities. For example, SBA Utah and RRT leaders hosted an informational session over Zoom with ranchers and farmers in the state to explain how PPP loans could help them.

All inquiries, received via a general email account, were distributed among the service representatives, who then contacted the small business owner via phone or email to address their questions. To support the needs of small business owners who were not fluent in English, the RRT handled inquiries in multiple languages, including Spanish and Chinese.

Responses were guided by training and a rich set of FAQs prepared by the SBA and others. Team leaders helped by providing oversight and additional training and FAQ development. Managers also contributed with further oversight, management of staffing levels, and handling reporting back to the SBA Utah.

The original RRT operated from April 1, 2020, through mid June 2020. As the initial PPP was winding down, Hope Corps, a Utah nonprofit, engaged 17 students from the University of Utah to help promote PPP to historically underserved communities in Utah. Under the direction of the RRT, Hope Corps students called over 6,000 businesses from underserved communities. The goal of the phone campaign was to inform small business owners in these communities about the availability of PPP loans.

When the SBA announced in January 2021 that it was reopening the PPP loan process for both first and second round loans, the RRT reengaged to help with inquiries from Utah small businesses.