Two Baker County businesses each received a loan exceeding $1 million through the CARES Act that Congress passed in late March at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic.

The $2.2 trillion economic stimulus package included the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), designed to help businesses pay their employees even if they had to close due to the pandemic.

A database of businesses that received loans exceeding $1 million showed two in Baker County — New Directions Northwest and Baker Charter School.

New Directions, which operates drug and alcohol treatment and mental health programs in Baker City, received between $1 and $2 million.

Officials declined to give the exact amount.

“The PPP Loan program made it possible for us to retain professional staff within our own community,” said Shari Selander, New Directions CEO. “We are grateful that we could keep them here, fully employed, in Baker County, the place they call home.”

New Directions built a new office this year on 13th Street, near the Baker County Sheriff’s Office.

Baker Charter School, which started in 2008, includes Baker Web Academy, a free statewide online school in grades K-12, and Baker Early College, a program designed to help students in grades 10-12 finish high school and start college courses early.

Baker Charter School received $2.1 million, which it used to pay for its 154 staff members as well as rent and utilities.

“It was a tremendous help,” Superintendent Daniel Huld said. “If we hadn’t gotten the PPP loan, it would have been a really rough year financially.”

Recipients don’t have to repay PPP loans if they meet certain conditions regarding the percentage of the money used for employee salaries.

A second bill, called the HEALS Act, was introduced in Congress last week, and could include a second round of forgivable loans for small businesses, as well as stimulus checks for individuals.

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