In early 2020, the rapid global spread of the novel COVID-19 virus launched the United States, along with the rest of the world, into simultaneous health and financial crises. Emergency measures implemented to slow the spread of the virus also brought many sectors of the economy to a screeching halt. The U.S. Congress passed the CARES Act, a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus bill. As part of the bill, Congress established the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a forgivable, lowinterest private loan program to specifically assist small businesses.

This Article is the first legal analysis of its kind to examine the successes and failures of the PPP in saving small businesses. It includes a narrative of how the PPP unfolded and a discussion of its more noteworthy criticisms, primarily concerning its less-than-praiseworthy rollout, accusations of favoring undeserving recipients, racial bias in execution, and a high level of fraud. The Article uses a novel five-part evaluation rubric to demonstrate the PPP’s success, despite its many setbacks. In fact, the program is awarded a “high-pass” grade for its ability to effectively (while maybe not efficiently) deliver aid to small businesses in need.

This Article concludes that Congress should create a permanent PPP-style framework for future crises. With climate change, natural disasters and emergencies playing out similar to COVID-19 are likely to increase in frequency and severity. To avoid the missteps of the PPP next time, Congress should act now and use the lessons learned from the PPP to implement an effective strategy for the future deployment of a rapid-response emergency plan that can be implemented quickly and nimbly in the future.