But decades of bank consolidation and decline in the numbers of community banks have left rural communities with fewer options for local banking. Small-businessowners face greater competition at large urban-based banks with local branches, which often make them a lower priority, said Becky McCray, a rural entrepreneur and small business expert based in Woods County, Oklahoma.
"The PPP program wasn't for everybody, and everybody didn't have access to it," said Hampton, whose organization lends to clients in Delaware and southeastern Pennsylvania.
"If you are a smaller business in a rural area, with not real strong banking relationships, you might have been overlooked," Hampton said. "You had to be a sophisticated business to where you had payroll, and you were able to document the payroll that you have."
But small businesses in some rural areas have been more successful in getting federal help.
Fully 100% of rural bank CEOs surveyed in the latest Rural Mainstreet Index by Creighton University consider the PPP a success. More than 1 in 5 want to see the program expanded. The monthly index surveys bankers in rural areas of 10 states in the Midwest or West that depend on agriculture or energy.
Rural states with fewer coronavirus cases and deaths had more early success with SBA loans than businesses in more urban states, according to an April 17 Reuters analysis of SBA and census data.
North Dakota, Nebraska, South Dakota and Oklahoma received the most SBA loans per capita, while California, Nevada, New Jersey and New York received the least.
But far more early federal relief loans reached small businesses in states where small, local banks comprise a greater share of the market, according to an April 29 report by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.
For example, banks in North Dakota issued about 1,444 loans per 100,000 people. One-fifth of that number were issued in Arizona, which has the fewest community banks per capita of any state.
Lenders' preference for borrowers with an existing relationship and the number of community banks largely explain geographical variations in PPP funding, according to the New York Fed study.
It also found that, on a per business basis, the areas most affected by COVID-19, such as New York, New Jersey, Michigan and Pennsylvania, received fewer loans than some Mountain States and parts of the Midwest.
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