COVID-19

Who got PPP loans? Trump administration releases the data.

Sabri Ben-Achour, Nova Safo, and Alex Schroeder Jul 7, 2020
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Larger companies initially took advantage of the Paycheck Protection Program, which was intended to offer forgivable loans to smaller businesses. Kameleon007 via Getty Images
COVID-19

Who got PPP loans? Trump administration releases the data.

Sabri Ben-Achour, Nova Safo, and Alex Schroeder Jul 7, 2020
Heard on:
Larger companies initially took advantage of the Paycheck Protection Program, which was intended to offer forgivable loans to smaller businesses. Kameleon007 via Getty Images
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The Paycheck Protection Program loans — forgivable if workers stay on payrolls — were supposed to save small and mid-sized businesses, and along with them, jobs.

According to newly released data on who got loans worth $150,000 or more, the program worked: Money was spread around widely, to everything from health care companies to construction, manufacturing and religious organizations.

But the loans also went to some enterprises that are once again prompting questions about who really needed the government aid.

Marketplace’s Nova Safo has the details. The following is an edited transcript of his conversation with Marketplace’s Sabri Ben-Achour.

Sabri Ben-Achour: So who got loans that people might be raising questions about this morning?

Nova Safo: Probably the highest-profile name is Kanye West. His clothing company got millions in PPP loans. We don’t know the exact amount — it’s categorized as between $2 million and $5 million. The reason we’re learning about this now is that the Treasury Department and Small Business Administration, under pressure, released data for who got the biggest loans.

Among the recipients listed: expensive private schools, big restaurant chains, lobbying and investment firms and law practices, including one that represented President Donald Trump. Some megachurches got millions of dollars.

Less than 15% of recipients requested loans worth more than $150,000, but this group accounted for the vast majority of the money that was dispersed by the Small Business Administration.

Ben-Achour: I remember a few weeks ago we were talking about some big restaurant chains taking PPP loans, so are these revelations a surprise?

Safo: They’re confirming some of the criticisms about the PPP program, that money was flowing to bigger businesses than perhaps Congress intended.

The issue is that the program was supposed to be for firms that didn’t have other options for quickly raising cash to continue paying employees and staying in business.

We spoke with Sarah Crozier of the Main Street Alliance, which is an advocacy group for small business:

“To see that the most well-banked businesses are best represented in getting that money and ultimately, maybe didn’t need it as much as other businesses, particularly in the service industries — I can see where that outrage has been justified.”

Crozier told us that what her group now wants is for Congress to target aid, for example, geographically to small businesses in infection hot spots, where the aid may be most needed.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Millions of Americans are unemployed, but businesses say they are having trouble hiring. Why?

This economic crisis is unusual compared to traditional recessions, according to Daniel Zhao, senior economist with Glassdoor. “Many workers are still sitting out of the labor force because of health concerns or child care needs, and that makes it tough to find workers regardless of what you’re doing with wages or benefits,” Zhao said. “An extra dollar an hour isn’t going to make a cashier with preexisting conditions feel that it’s safe to return to work.” This can be seen in the restaurant industry: Some workers have quit or are reluctant to apply because of COVID-19 concerns, low pay, meager benefits and the stress that comes with a fast-paced, demanding job. Restaurants have been willing to offer signing bonuses and temporary wage increases. One McDonald’s is even paying people $50 just to interview.

Could waiving patents increase the global supply of COVID-19 vaccines?

India and South Africa have introduced a proposal to temporarily suspend patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Backers of the plan say it would increase the supply of vaccines around the world by allowing more countries to produce them. Skeptics say it’s not that simple. There’s now enough supply in the U.S that any adult who wants a shot should be able to get one soon. That reality is years away for most other countries. More than 100 countries have backed the proposal to temporarily waive COVID-19 vaccine patents. The U.S isn’t one of them, but the White House has said it’s considering the idea.

Can businesses deny you entry if you don’t have a vaccine passport?

As more Americans get vaccinated against COVID-19 and the economy begins reopening, some businesses are requiring proof of vaccination to enter their premises. The concept of a vaccine passport has raised ethical questions about data privacy and potential discrimination against the unvaccinated. However, legal experts say businesses have the right to deny entrance to those who can’t show proof.

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