The Paycheck Protection Program, which has distributed more than $500 billion in government loans to small businesses, helped save between 1.4 million and 3.2 million jobs during the coronavirus pandemic. That’s according to a study released Wednesday by Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Federal Reserve researchers.

Investigators used administrative data from ADP, one of the world’s largest payroll processing firms, to examine payroll employment at both PPP-eligible and PPP-ineligible firms. They estimated that the hundreds of billions of dollars in government loans boosted employment at eligible firms by 2% to 4.5% through the first week of June.

The research suggests that providing money directly to companies helped curb job losses during the pandemic, though employment remains about 15 million below pre-virus levels. 

“The evidence to date suggests the PPP was certainly not perfectly targeted in terms of reaching only firms or regions in the most need,” the study authors noted. “Even so, it was delivered to a substantial number of small and mid-size firms, many of which were likely facing acute liquidity needs.”