Treasury Reveals Big Firms That Got Millions in Virus Loans

The Trump administration finally put out a partial list of small business borrowers Monday, revealing a wide spectrum of companies tapped stimulus funds. 

Five Guys Enterprises, which owns a chain of burger restaurants that stayed open during the Covid-19 pandemic, was among the raft of large companies that received millions in federal lending meant to keep small businesses afloat. (Courthouse News photo/Barbara Leonard)

MANHATTAN (CN) — A spreadsheet showing a partial list of small businesses that borrowed millions from the Treasury Department confirms that many larger, publicly traded companies gobbled up millions of dollars. 

The Paycheck Protection Program, which offered small businesses forgivable loans of up to $10 million to keep employees working, has been credited with boosting employment numbers during the economic downturn.

Among its criticisms, however, is that it was rushed out the door without proper guidance, allowing publicly traded companies to jump the line at banks and causing some small businesses to be shut out initially.

Shake Shack and Ruths Chris Steakhouse were among the large companies  that returned PPP funds under scrutiny, but a partial list of borrowers released Monday by the Small Business Administration shows many others did not.

The list includes more than 650,000 borrowers that received at least $150,000 in PPP loans broken down by loan amount: $150,000; $350,000 to $1 million; $1 million to $2 million; $2 million to $5 million; and $5 million to $10 million.

Among the highest-profile companies that received PPP loans of at least $5 million: Bell Laboratories, which claimed its loan saved 449 jobs; Five Guys Enterprises, which used its loan to keep 499 employees on the payroll; TGI Friday’s, which kept 500 employees; and Sport Clips.

Some other notable borrowers include Foremost Maritime, a property owned by Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s family, which received $350,000, as well as several Democratic and Republican organizations and a number of Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts organizations.

Religious groups also have been able to tap the funds. A number of Catholic high schools, churches and dioceses were listed in the high end of borrowers, receiving loans of $1 million and up. Myriad other Christian churches also received loans of at least $1 million.

Jewish and Islamic groups were not left out of the program. Groups like the Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion, located in Cincinnati, Ohio, received at least $2 million, while the Islamic Foundation of Greater Milwaukee borrowed at least $1 million in PPP funds. The Freedom from Religion Foundation received a $350,000 loan, as well.

The Los Angeles Lakers gained some bad press earlier this year for having tapped the PPP pie, though the basketball team ultimately returned the funds. But a number of sports teams received loans from $150,000 to $350,000, and the National Football Museum in Canton, Ohio, received at least $1 million.

The data show how popular the program was among a wide spectrum of borrowers but it excludes a huge swath of borrowers — those that received under $150,000. The average PPP loan was for just north of $107,000, according to the SBA.

For borrowers that received less than $150,000, the SBA disclosed only some information, including the loan amounts, business structure, lender, and whether the loan resulted in any employee jobs retained.

Further, it is unclear whether borrowers were truly accurate in reporting how many jobs were “saved” due to the program. No company on the list reported that they retained more than 500 employees using PPP funds, which indicates the SBA either did not track or did not disclose numbers above that amount.

In some cases, PPP loans were given to companies that reported zero employees had been retained. Under the program, the loans become grants if a borrower uses at least 60% of the funds to keep employees on the payroll. Those companies that do not have two years to pay back the loan at 1% interest.

Much of the information on borrowers’ race, ethnicity, and gender also is not included in the SBA spreadsheets, since filling out that information on the PPP loan applications was voluntary. 

The SBA and Treasury Department did not return emails seeking clarification on the disclosures.

Companies have until August 8 to apply for the remaining funds in the PPP coffers.

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