Small business aid winners include Five Guys, Planned Parenthood, Grindr

Small business aid winners include Five Guys, Planned Parenthood, Grindr


The Trump administration on Monday revealed the names of more than 650,000 employers that secured billions of dollars in emergency small business aid — including Washington interest groups, businesses tied to lawmakers and some of the country’s best-known consumer brands.

Among the loan recipients were private equity-backed restaurant groups Five Guys, P.F. Chang’s and TGI Friday’s. The Americans for Tax Reform Foundation, which touts the benefits of smaller government, got aid. So did the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. Religious organizations and Goodwill Industries obtained funds, as did about 40 Planned Parenthood affiliates. The law firm founded by David Boies — who represented Al Gore in the 2000 election recount and defended Harvey Weinstein — took a loan. And Kanye West’s company, Yeezy LLC, received a loan for $2 million to $5 million.

The disclosure by the Small Business Administration made public for the first time a vast number of businesses and nonprofits that received forgivable loans under the $670 billion Paycheck Protection Program, which was designed to avert mass layoffs during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The release of data for loans larger than $150,000 divulges just a minority of the program’s total borrowers — more than 80 percent of the transactions were below that threshold — but it marked a significant step forward in transparency after the administration for months resisted requests by lawmakers and news organizations to share the recipients of the funds.

The disclosure has huge consequences for lawmakers as negotiations begin on the next economic relief package, including additional support for businesses. Lawmakers say they want to target aid at hard-hit employers, but they’ve had little visibility into where the first wave of money went, until now.

“This program was far from perfect, but it did a whole lot of good in the economy,” said Isaac Boltansky, director of policy research at Compass Point Research & Trading. “The bumpy launch, the muddled messaging and the stories to come out of this new data are simply the cost of pushing that much money into the system that quickly.”

As of June 30, the program had issued $521.4 billion via almost 4.9 million loans, leaving more than $131.9 billion unspent, according to the SBA. The data the Trump administration disclosed this week did not include the more than $30 billion in loans that were returned or canceled, senior administration officials said. Many companies returned the loans after the SBA and Treasury discouraged corporations from taking the funds if they had access to other financing.

The loans can be forgiven if businesses agree to maintain their payrolls, and Monday’s release showed that borrowers reported the loans supported 51.1 million jobs. About 27 percent of the approved funds went to low- and moderate-income areas. In an industry-by-industry breakdown, health care and social assistance businesses received the greatest share of the loan funds — about $67 billion.

The big corporate borrowers that came to light in the early days of the program via Securities and Exchange Commission filings fueled debate about who was worthy of the aid. Those concerns abated as demand for the loans waned and tens of billions of dollars went unused. But employers that took the money were preparing for a second wave of public outrage.

Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) on Thursday revealed that her family’s businesses received about $480,000 in Paycheck Protection Program loans, after she had previously declined to disclose the details.

The loan data revealed details that had not previously been disclosed on PPP borrowers.

Burger chain Five Guys, which has locations across the U.S. and Canada, took a loan of between $5 million and 10 million, according to the SBA database. The revelation came after other big restaurant operators such as Shake Shack and Ruth’s Chris returned money amid a public backlash. The new data showed that TGI Friday’s and P.F. Chang’s also took loans in the $5 million to $10 million range. All three corporations are backed by private equity firms, which face restrictions on how their portfolio companies can apply for the aid.

Drury Hotels, a Missouri-based chain with more than 150 locations in 27 states, also received a loan of between $5 million and $10 million. The privately held company had revenue of $580 million in 2017, according to the St. Louis Business Journal.

Grindr, an online dating app aimed at LGBTQ people, got a loan of between $1 million and $2 million in April, about a month after a Chinese company, Beijing Kunlun Tech, sold its 98.6 percent stake in the company for $608.5 million. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, the federal body that polices foreign investments that could pose national security risks, had urged Kunlun to divest from the app, which collects personal data, according to Reuters.

Goodwill Industries International, a major nonprofit with billions in revenue, received a loan of between $2 million and $5 million, while more than 70 of its individual locations also got funds.

The nonprofit said it took out the loan “to keep essential staff” and said its independent locations could comment on loans they received.

“The PPP loans served as a lifeline for Goodwill and many nonprofits, allowing them to retain staff and maintain operations as they provide vital services on the frontlines during the pandemic and assist in future recovery efforts,” Goodwill spokesperson Lauren Lawson-Zilai said in an email. “GII is grateful for the loan received, and we continue to urge Congress to provide relief for larger nonprofits that were not able to access the PPP, yet continue to struggle during these times.”

About 40 Planned Parenthood locations received loans. Initial news of the loans leaked weeks ago, spurring an outcry from Republicans who oppose the nonprofit over abortion rights. Planned Parenthood Federation of America Vice President Jacqueline Ayers said the loans have ensured that health centers can retain staff and continue to provide patients with essential, time-sensitive sexual and reproductive health care during this crisis.”

The data shows that Washington interest groups and firms staffed by former officials took advantage of the program.

Americans for Tax Reform Foundation, a “research and educational” nonprofit linked to small-government advocate Grover Norquist, received a loan for between $150,000 and $350,000. In a statement, Americans for Tax Reform said the foundation was “badly hurt by the government shutdown” and was able to maintain its employees without laying anyone off thanks to the loan.

The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute received loans for $350,000-$1 million. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation got a loan in the same range.

Albright Stonebridge Group, the “global strategic advisory and commercial diplomacy firm” chaired by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, received a loan for $2.05 million, a spokesperson said.

Right-leaning news organizations also secured loans. NewsMax Media Inc., the company headed by Christopher Ruddy, a supporter of President Donald Trump, received between $2 million and $5 million. And the Daily Caller News Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the conservative Daily Caller news site co-founded by Tucker Carlson, received between $150,000 and $350,000.

The data revealed details on loans approved for companies linked to lawmakers. Automotive businesses tied to Reps. Roger Williams (R-Texas) and Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) received aid. KTAK Corp., a McDonald’s restaurant operator that Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.) has disclosed as a source of income, received a $1-2 million loan.

“Mike Kelly Automotive Group, Inc.”; “Mike Kelly Automotive, LP” and “Mike, Kelly Hyundai, Inc.” each received loans for $150,000-$350,000 from PNC Bank. Kelly spokesperson Andrew Eisenberger said the lawmaker was not involved in the day-to-day operations of his dealerships and was not part of the discussions with the lender.

“The Paycheck Protection Program was designed to sustain the income of workers who would otherwise have been without pay or employment at no fault of their own during the coronavirus pandemic, and organizations in which members of Congress have an ownership stake were not prohibited from receiving PPP loans to help their employees during this difficult time,” Eisenberger said.

The prominent law firm Boies Schiller Flexner LLP received between $5 million and $10 million under the program. David Boies — who rose to prominence representing the government in its antitrust case against Microsoft and representing Gore in the election recount debacle — has made headlines in recent years for defending Weinstein and representing the fraudulent startup Theranos. He also represented several of Jeffrey Epstein’s accusers.

Georgetown Preparatory School, the Maryland-based private school that taught Supreme Court Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch as well as Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, received a loan for $2 million to $5 million. The school’s president, Rev. James Van Dyke, said applying for the loan was “manifestly necessary” to keep up with “our commitment and ethical obligations to our 195 employees during this historic economic crisis.”

The lack of transparency was a political hurdle last week before Congress passed legislation to keep the program open to new loan applications until Aug. 8. It shut down Tuesday night but restarted Monday morning after Trump signed the extension over the holiday weekend.

The SBA and Treasury agreed to give congressional committees full access to loan data, and news organizations are seeking greater access under the Freedom of Information Act.

Sam Mintz, Melanie Zanona and Kellie Mejdrich contributed to this report.

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