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You Wouldn’t Believe Who Got a Small Business Loan

COVID is oxygen for the swamp, with billionaires, politicians, Kanye and Scientologists all benefiting.

Secretary Mnuchin Testifies In Senate Hearing On CARES Act Implementation (Photo by: Evan Al-Drago-Pool/Getty Images)

As millions of Americans on Main Street are struggling due to the effects of COVID-19 and its related small business closures, the swamp in Washington is funneling PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) funds to billionaires, country clubs, lobbyists, political allies, Wall Street, and big business. 

Some 663,000 businesses were revealed to have received PPP loans greater than $150,000, according to a report by the Small Business Association. 

But a closer look reveals that nearly 600 asset management companies and private equity firms were approved for money from the PPP, according to government data. This is despite a provision outlined by the SBA in April that ruled that investment firms were ineligible as they “engaged in investment or speculation.” 

Not only was Wall Street well paid, but so were the elite law firms. All of those that received funding grossed more than $100 million in revenue in 2019. In fact, 45 of the top law firms across the United States received at least $210 million in PPP loans.  

Members of Congress have also benefited from PPP funds according to SBA’s, including businesses held by Rep. Kevin Hern (R-OK), Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA), Rep. Rick Allen (R-GA), and Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK). Businesses linked to Reps. Roger Williams, (R-TX), Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), Susie Lee (D-Nev), and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Fla), also got money. A firm partially owned by Paul Pelosi, the husband of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, received funding, too.

Allies to President Trump also got their share, according to the SBA report, including a law firm run by one of Trump’s key defenders in the Russia probe, a Kushner family real estate project, and conservative media organizations, the Daily Caller and Newsmax. 

In a move surely to anger anti-abortion activists, including many of President Trump’s core supporters, the federal government gave out at least $150 million in funding to Planned Parenthood locations. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) called for the return of PPP funding in response to the report, “The money needs to be recovered and if anybody knowingly falsified applications, they need to be prosecuted.”

Another unlikely recipient of money intended to save small businesses across America? The Church of Scientology. Three Church of Scientology locations in New York, Washington D.C., and Florida were cleared to receive loans between $150,000 and $350,000 each.This, despite the Church of Scientology being worth more than $1.2 billion dollars. (As of 2014) 

Foreign firms were also not barred from receiving PPP from American taxpayers during the crisis. Korea Air, South Korea’s largest airline, received $5 to $10 million in funding. 

Kanye West, billionaire rapper and fashion designer, received between $2 to $5 million in funds for his shoe and fashion company that is valued at over $3 billion. Similarly, other high-end fashion designers received tax-payer funds in the millions, including Vera Wang, Oscar de la Renta, and Hickey Freeman.

The Paycheck Protection Program was designed to provide relief to small businesses hurt by COVID-19 in order for them to retain and pay their employees. The program was designed for companies with 500 or fewer employees. PPP was deemed a lifeline for small businesses across America, rather than a cash-grab by those who the funding is not critical to their survival. How funding lined the wallets of politicians, interest groups, and billionaires is cause for concern.

On the other hand, many regular Americans found it difficult to acquire adequate PPP to support their businesses and employees. Reports have projected that over 100,000 small businesses will close permanently as a result. 

As many Americans are struggling, politics as usual is at play, and we’re footing the bill.

about the author

Alberto Bufalino is a student at Wake Forest University in North Carolina and TAC's summer editorial intern.

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