The steady drumbeat of the building activity is a relief to the ears of Marquita and Glen Kelley.

When the coronavirus pandemic halted construction in Boston, the couple feared they would have to shut down their third-generation electricity business for good.

“I think we should have closed our doors if we hadn’t been able to get this loan,” said Marquita Kelley.

The loan she talks about comes from the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program, which aims to help small businesses retain workers during a public health emergency. It grants loans of up to $ 10 million, which are forgiven if companies keep their employees on the payroll for eight weeks.

The loan gave the Dorchester couple the financial strain they needed to keep their five full-time employees.

“It was super vital, because we were basically hanging on,” said Marquita Kelley.

But not all businesses that have received loans under the federal program are moms and dads.

NBC10 Boston investigators found that at least two dozen Massachusetts-listed companies received government money, some of which previously paid multi-million dollar salaries to corporate executives.

Agenus Inc., a Lexington-based biotechnology company that is developing new cancer drugs, took out a $ 6.2 million PPP loan last month, according to files it filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. United States.

SEC records also show that Agenus paid his CEO nearly $ 10 million in compensation last year, including cash, stocks and options to buy more of the company’s stock at future, although he subsequently lost about $ 1.9 million in stock awards, according to the company report. deposits.

ConforMIS, Inc., a Billerica-based medical equipment company that manufactures joint replacement parts, received a loan of $ 4.7 million under the Paycheck Protection Program.

Last year, it awarded its President and CEO, Mark A. Augusti, total compensation of $ 2.8 million, including a base salary of $ 535,600, a bonus of about 200,000 dollars and stock awards worth $ 1.8 million, according to company records.

And EyePoint Pharmaceuticals in Watertown took out a $ 2 million loan, roughly equivalent to the salary it paid its CEO, Nancy Lurker, in 2019.

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has criticized flaws in the design and implementation of the paycheck protection program, said small business loans were never intended for large companies.

“That these people come and suck money out of the aid that has been made available to small businesses is fundamentally wrong,” said the Massachusetts Democrat.

Agenus recently told investors that in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it cut costs by around $ 50 million and cut some research and development programs, cut manufacturing cycles, and slowed down or halted some. first tests, according to its SEC filings.

CEO Garo Armen has also agreed to receive his salary in the form of company shares instead of cash for the remainder of 2020.

Conformis, which performs knee and hip replacements, put about 80 employees on leave in March. He accelerated plans to bring them back after qualifying for his PPP loan, according to Augusti, the CEO.

“It would have been, I think, irresponsible not to watch the program,” he said.

In a statement, EyePoint Pharmaceuticals CEO Nancy Lurker said the loan she received also helped prevent layoffs.

“We have taken all appropriate steps to ensure that we meet the criteria and believe we meet them,” the statement said.

Companies that have secured large loans will be subject to scrutiny by the federal government. The SBA said it would verify all loans over $ 2 million, verifying whether recipients were truly eligible and how they spent the money. Under the program, loans are to be used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities.

Some large companies have repaid PPP loans after being scrutinized by the public.

Kelley, the entrepreneur from Dorchester, said small businesses have fewer options, making the program a lifeline for her and others.

“Big businesses can get loans from banks and other resources,” she said. “It’s much more difficult for a small business.”