For some time now, there have been whispers that the half-trillion-dollar small business loan program intended to help small business owners during the COVID-19 pandemic was not being used solely for its intended purpose. For example, accusations have been swirling that big banks have been focusing on their existing, big customers – leaving other small businesses without help. Now, reports are saying that members of Congress have also taken their slice of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds, while countless business owners are still struggling.
Specifically, four members of Congress have acknowledged close ties to companies that received PPP loans – but it is hard to tell just how many have taken advantage, Meanwhile, other small business owners are suffering or have had to close their doors and walk away from their lifelong dream.
Republican Rep. Roger Williams of Texas, a wealthy businessman who owns auto dealerships, body shops and car washes is one of the accused. Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri, whose family owns multiple farms and equipment suppliers, has also fallen under the microscope. Democrats on the list include Rep. Susie Lee of Nevada and Rep. Debbie Mucarsel Powell of Florida. Both of these representatives’ husbands are part of a company that has received a loan.
While there are undoubtedly more to add to the list, only the Small Business Administration and Treasury Department are privy to that information. The Trump Administration has also turned down attempts to secure any further details.
What does that mean long term? Whether the information surrounding the largest distribution of taxpayer money in human history is shared has been completely left up to business owners and elected officials. Considering one loan can be as large as $10 million, it leaves a lot of temptation and opportunity for dishonesty – only hurting small businesses more than they already are.
The author of the bill, Rep. Dean Phillips, shed some light on the situation in a recent interview. He explained that his bill “was not written to expose members of Congress, because frankly I expected members of Congress to be forthright and transparent to begin with.”
What do the lawmakers themselves have to say? Each of them has adamantly said that they were acquired through the proper channels with a desire to keep good, hardworking American employed. According to Securities and Exchange Commission filings:
- Full House Resorts, of which Lee’s husband is the president and CEO, received $5.6 million,
- And Fiesta Restaurant Group, which employs Mucarsel Powell’s husband as an executive, received $15 million before returning it in full.
In addition, spokespeople for Williams and Hartzler declined to say how much money was provided under the loans to the privately held companies these lawmakers own.
What’s Next for Small Business Owners
Whether lawmakers benefited from PPP loan aid or not, one fact remains: small business owners still need funding. So, what is next for them? With the majority of the funds depleted from the program, many small business owners will have to seek assistance elsewhere. One of the best options is to turn to alternative lenders, like First American Merchant.
FAM is an award-winning alternative online lender and processor that specializes in high risk business funding and merchant processing. Rather than relying solely on federally-backed funds, you can also apply for alternative financing to cover payroll, meet expenses and navigate these unprecedented times.