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Small Business Loans Flowed to Health Care, Construction and Big States – The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Restaurants, medical offices and car dealerships were the top recipients of large loans from the federal government’s $660 billion small business relief program, according to data released Monday by the Trump administration.

The data, which the Trump administration released under pressure from lawmakers and watchdog groups, offered the most detailed look yet at the sectors and businesses that took advantage of a program aimed at keeping workers on the payroll as the coronavirus shuttered businesses across the country.

The Paycheck Protection Program offers businesses with 500 or fewer employees loans that can be forgiven if the employer meets certain conditions, like using the bulk of funds to pay employees. An initial round of program funding was rapidly exhausted, but a second round saw slower demand and many companies returning money, leaving the program with about $131.9 billion in its coffers. Mr. Trump on Saturday signed legislation that extended the application deadline, originally June 30, to Aug. 8.

The information released on Monday was confined to companies that received loans of more than $150,000, offering just a partial picture of where the money went. The administration said that 86.5 percent of the loans were for less than that amount, so the nuanced snapshot represented only some of the companies that tapped funds. So far, banks have made about 4.9 million loans through the program, with an average size of $107,000.

Some companies got large sums: Nearly 5,000 businesses received individual loans between $5 million and $10 million, according to the data. The administration included ranges for the loan amounts, not specific figures.

A large chunk of funds went to industries that have been hard hit by lockdowns, including restaurants, dentists and car dealers. More than 40,000 full- or limited-service restaurants received loans worth as much as $32 billion according to the ranges of loan value provided by the government.

But some less obvious groups also took loans, including Washington lobbying firms, trade groups, political organizations, consulting firms and special interest groups. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, which works “to protect and advance hunting, angling, recreational shooting and trapping” received a loan between $150,000 and $350,000. Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Immigration Studies, and the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation also received funds.

An arm of Americans for Tax Reform, the influential conservative group that has been a vocal critic of government spending, received between $150,000 and $350,000, according to the government’s data. The group recently released a letter urging the government to lift a restriction on the loan program that was stopping money from going to some companies.

President Trump also appears to have benefited from government support, at least indirectly. While the Trump Organization did not apply for loans under the program, the data showed that dozens of tenants at buildings owned by Mr. Trump or managed by his companies received funds.

One recipient was a hair salon in the president’s hotel in Chicago. More than 20 businesses listed at 40 Wall Street, an office building near the New York Stock Exchange that Mr. Trump has owned since the mid-1990s, also received government loans totaling at least $20 million. Among the recipients were law offices, financial service firms, and nonprofit organizations.

Sushi Nakazawa, a restaurant at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, received a loan of between $150,000 and $350,000.

Jean-Georges Management, a restaurant group affiliated with the upscale Jean-Georges restaurant in the Trump Hotel in New York, also received a loan. It is unclear whether the loan, worth between $350,000 and $1 million, was used specifically by the restaurant at the Trump hotel. Jean-Georges Vongerichten, the famed chef and founder of the company, is a member of the president’s economic revival group.

And Kasowitz Benson Torres, the law firm founded and run by Mr. Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Marc E. Kasowitz, received a loan for between $5 and $10 million.

The firm represented Mr. Trump for over a decade before he was elected president, both in his business dealings and in other matters, such as helping Mr. Trump keep divorce records sealed. Mr. Kasowitz and the firm also represented Mr. Trump during Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Mr. Trump later diminished the role of Mr. Kasowitz in his dealings with Mr. Mueller’s investigators and elevated lawyers who counseled a more conciliatory posture.

A legal complaint brought by a former partner this January contended that the firm was having cash flow problems in 2017, citing an email sent to partners late that year. But the firm denied that was the case.

Broader data released Monday that tracked aggregate figures for the program overall, including smaller loans, showed that businesses in big states like California and Texas received the most in loans.

Of the $521 billion allocated through the Paycheck Protection Program, about $68.2 billion — roughly 13 percent — went to companies in California. Another $41.1 billion flowed to Texas businesses, based on data released Monday by the Treasury Department and Small Business Administration, which are administering the program.

The administration said that the money allocated through the program so far had helped support more than 50 million jobs. The share of overall small business payroll supported per state ranged from 72 percent in Virginia to 96 percent in Florida, according to the Treasury Department.

Looking at the aggregate data by geography, there was no apparent link between the amount of economic damage suffered by individual states and how successful small businesses in a particular state were at accessing the loans from the program.

Four states in the Great Plains — North Dakota and South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas — all saw loan approvals of at least 90 percent of their eligible small business payroll, even though they rank among the least-affected states in terms of unemployment claims during the crisis. Two of the hardest-hit states for claims, New York and California, saw loan approvals equal to about three-quarters of their eligible payrolls; by that measure, California companies would have received billions more from the program if they had seen approvals at the same rate as the Plains states.

The data include limited information about the race of business owners who benefited from the program. That disclosure was not a requirement at the outset of the program and most owners did not specify their race. Among those who did, white Americans dominated in loan receipts. They received between $27.8 billion and $67.5 billion, the data show. Hispanic owners received between $2 and $5 billion. Black owners received between $672 million and $1.6 billion.

The figures did not include details on the roughly $30 billion in loans that were returned as companies realized that they were not eligible for the program, worried they couldn’t meet program requirements, or gave back the money after public outcry about big firms getting funds.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Jovita Carranza, the head of the Small Business Administration, had previously said that they would release the names of borrowers who had received at least $150,000 through the program before the July 4 holiday weekend. A senior administration official said cleaning the data for public consumption took longer than anticipated, though it was provided to Congress on Friday.

The detailed disclosures are the culmination of a monthslong fight over transparency. After initially refusing to disclose detailed information about borrowers, the Trump administration reversed course in mid-June.

The push for detailed disclosure came after large companies tapped the program funds, which were initially in short supply. In the first few weeks after the program opened in April, public companies disclosed in financial filings that they had been among the beneficiaries. The revelation that big name-brand organizations like Shake Shack and the Los Angeles Lakers were getting bailout money prompted Mr. Mnuchin to push businesses that did not need the loans to return them.

Since then, the Trump administration — which has long argued that borrower information was “proprietary” and confidential — has been under mounting pressure over what it should disclose about who, exactly, is getting the money.

Small business groups lobbied the Treasury Department to keep loan information secret, and department officials expressed concern that publishing detailed payroll information about private businesses could leave them vulnerable to corporate takeovers or competitors trying to poach their employees.

But Democrats and left-leaning government watchdog groups said that the White House was refusing to be transparent and engaging in corporate cronyism. After Republicans in Congress also began grumbling that Treasury was thwarting their oversight responsibilities by withholding the data, Mr. Mnuchin relented.

The Paycheck Protection Program began handing out loans on April 3, just a week after Mr. Trump signed the $2 trillion stimulus bill into law. The quick turnaround meant many of the program’s guidelines were still being written as the government prepared to take applications.

After a brief hiatus, it began accepting loan applications anew on Monday.

David McCabe contributed reporting from Washington and Noam Scheiber contributed from Chicago.

Source: nytimes.com

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