Simon Willison’s Weblog


Weeknotes: SBA Covid-19 PPP loans, Datasette talks, Datasette plugin upgrades

9th July 2020

This week I’ve mainly been exploring Small Business Administration Covid-19 loans data, pitching some talks and upgrading some plugins for compatibility with Datasette 0.44+.

SBA PPP Covid-19 loan data

On Monday the Small Business Administration and the Treasury Department released detailed loan-level data for loans made under the Paycheck Protection Program as part of their Covid-19 response.

They released the data as a zip file full of CSVs on their Box account (the first time I’ve seen Box used for this kind of government data release).

The most interesting file in there was foia_150k_plus.csv—a file containing 661,218 loans over $150,000. So I loaded it into Datasette and published it at

I made one modification to the data: on the suggestion of David Cramer I imported a list of NAICS code descriptions from the US Census and set up the NAICSCode column as a foreign key to that table.

Here’s a custom query showing the NAICS codes with the most loan claims > $150k—Offices of Dentists come in 8th place with 10,627 loans!

My Twitter thread has more commentary on things I found exploring the data, and my sba-loans-covid-19-datasette GitHub repo describes the exact steps I went through to create the Datasette instance (using csvs-to-sqlite and sqlite-utils).

Pitching some talks

I haven’t done any public speaking in a while, and the pandemic means I’m not going to be giving any in-person talks for the forseeable future... so I spent some time pitching talks to remote events.

I’ll be speaking at Django London on July 14th and I have a few other submissions in the pipeline.

I’m also attending (virtually) the SRCCON journalism conference next week. They asked me to put together a short video introduction to Datasette, which I’ve embedded below. I’ll be hanging out and talking to anyone who’s interested in learning more about the project, or who can help me figure out what direction to take it next.

SRCCON 2020: Datasette from OpenNews Source on Vimeo.

Upgrading plugins

Datasette 0.44 broke some of my existing plugins due to a change in how it handles ASGI lifespan events. I’ve upgraded the following this week:

sqlite-utils 2.11

sqlite-utils 2.11 is the first release of sqlite-utils that was entirely written by someone else! Thomas Sibley added a new --truncate option for emptying a table (safely within a transaction) before populating it and made an improvement to how transactions work generally.

Thomas inspired me to start thinking more carefully about how transactions should work with the library.

This is Weeknotes: SBA Covid-19 PPP loans, Datasette talks, Datasette plugin upgrades by Simon Willison, posted on 9th July 2020.

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