The Kushner family, large chains backed by private equity, Wall Street investors, Kanye West, members of Congress, and the law firm that represented President Donald Trump during the Mueller probe were among the thousands of beneficiaries of a Covid-19 relief program aimed at rescuing struggling small businesses and keeping workers employed, according to new federal data released Monday.
While the Small Business Administration's (SBA) data disclosure reveals just a fraction of recipients of forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, critics voiced concern that large, wealthy firms were able to readily access millions of dollars in relief funds as more vulnerable companies frequently received less money than they applied for—or nothing at all.
"We cannot allow those small businesses that were grossly underfunded or disadvantaged by the program to disappear and not have their stories told and rectified."
—John Arensmeyer, Small Business Majority
"Serious questions remain about whether PPP funds were equitably distributed to minority-owned businesses, and there is an alarming rate of small-dollar loans," John Arensmeyer, founder and CEO of advocacy group Small Business Majority, said in a statement. "Nationally, a total of more than 21,800 small businesses, many with multiple employees, received a loan for under $1,000."
"To raise eyebrows even more," Arensmeyer added, "more than 1,200 of those businesses received less than $100—with some receiving loans as low as $1.00! Underfunding has been a pervasive problem for borrowers since PPP launched."
As the American Prospect's David Dayen pointed out on Twitter, it's not as if the $660 billion program was not sufficiently funded to provide small businesses with the relief they requested. At the previous PPP loan application deadline on June 30, more than $130 billion in funding remained in the tank. Last month, Congress extended the application deadline to August 8.
"The problem, in other words, is the incompetent filtering of the program through private sector banks because we've hollowed out public sector benefit delivery," wrote Dayen.
I don't really care about PPP shaming and dunking, all that does is give people a laugh without changing anything. I do care about businesses unable to get loans or more than a *dollar* in funding when there's $130 billion still left in the kitty. pic.twitter.com/OpSKkfqvy5
— David Dayen (@ddayen) July 6, 2020
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The SBA's disclosure—which included only the names of beneficiaries who received at least $150,000 in PPP funding—came in response to widespread outrage over the Trump administration's effort to keep information about loan recipients secret.
A searchable database of PPP beneficiaries can be viewed here.
As the Washington Post reported, "companies owned by the family of Jared Kushner... received several PPP loans. Princeton Forrestal LLC, a Kushner Cos. affiliate that bought the Princeton Marriott Hotel in 2018, received a loan of between $1 million and $2 million."
"Companies that appear to match those associated with two Trump cabinet officials also received PPP loans," according to the Post. "A company with a name matching one listed on the 2017 financial disclosure of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos received at least $6 million."
Meanwhile, Arensmeyer of Small Business Majority said around 25% of the companies in his group's network "have reported receiving a lower loan than what they requested."
"While many business owners received no explanation for why they did not receive the full loan amount," Arensmeyer added, "a number of other businesses have reported that lenders and the SBA either failed to catch and rectify errors on applications, or businesses were told to accept less than what they would qualify for to move things through the process quickly."
"The survival of America's small businesses depends on the full disclosure of PPP's successes and failures," said Arensmeyer. "Sunlight has always been the best disinfectant, and we cannot allow those small businesses that were grossly underfunded or disadvantaged by the program to disappear and not have their stories told and rectified."