Review of Economic Dynamics, Vol. 51, pp. 579-603, 2023

Rescue Policies for Small Businesses in the COVID-19 Recession

While the COVID-19 pandemic had a large and asymmetric impact on firms, many countries quickly enacted massive business rescue programs which are specifically targeted to smaller firms. Little is known about the effects of such policies on business entry and exit, investment, factor reallocation, and macroeconomic outcomes. This paper builds a general equilibrium model with heterogeneous and financially constrained firms in order to evaluate the short- and long-term consequences of small firm rescue programs in a pandemic recession. We calibrate the stationary equilibrium and the pandemic shock to the U.S. economy, taking into account the factual Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) as a specific policy. We find that the policy has only a modest impact on aggregate output and employment because (i) jobs are saved predominately in the smallest firms that account for a minor share of employment and (ii) the grant reduces the reallocation of resources towards larger and less impacted firms. Much of the reallocation effects occur in the aftermath of the pandemic episode. By preventing inefficient liquidations, the policy dampens the long-term declines of aggregate consumption and of the real wage, thus delivering small welfare gains.