South Carolina island gets $1M coronavirus relief loan, returns it after backlash

Kiawah Island is located just 25 miles from Charleston.

A homeowners association for a luxury South Carolina island has decided to reject a $1 million loan approved through the government’s Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program after facing backlash from the public, including a U.S. congressman from the state, according to a recent report.

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First-term Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham slammed the homeowners association for ritzy Kiawah Island, which is part of the region he represents, on Thursday, calling its initial decision to accept the coronavirus relief aid inappropriate, according to The Post and Courier.

The clubhouse at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, the future site of the 103rd PGA Championship on June 15, 2019 in Kiawah Island, South Carolina. (Photo by Gary Kellner/The PGA of America via Getty Images)

“I am incredibly disappointed that Kiawah Island Community Association took advantage of a program that was designed to offer a lifeline to struggling small businesses,” Cunningham said, according to the report. “When Congress approved spending billions of dollars of taxpayer money to help small businesses and their workers survive this crisis, it wasn’t meant for giant corporations with deep pockets or wealthy community associations with millions of dollars in reserve funds.”

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Kiawah Island is located about 25 miles from Charleston and is home to the ritzy Kiawah Island Club and Kiawah Island Golf Resort. The island hosted the PGA Championship in 2012 and is scheduled to do so in 2021, according to the club's website.

Hours later, the association's chairwoman, Diana Mezzanotte, told members the board had ultimately decided not to take the money, writing in an email that the community “will survive without the Payroll Protection Loan,” according to the report.

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“Therefore, today the board voted to return the loan because we understand that our sacrifices will be significantly less than small business owners who are struggling to survive,” Mezzanotte reportedly wrote in an email to members.

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The Post and Courier detailed how the Kiawah Island Community Association had at least $13.6 million in the bank at the end of 2019, as well as access to a $2.5 million line of credit.

Cunningham later commended the association’s choice on Twitter, calling the board’s move “the right decision.”

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“Now this money can go to Lowcountry small businesses and workers who really need the relief,” he wrote in a tweet.

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News of Kiawah Island Community Association’s decision came just one day after the Miami Herald revealed Fisher Island Club, which is located on Florida’s exclusive Fisher Island and reportedly charges $250,000 per membership, has decided not to accept its own PPP loan.

Fisher Island has been deemed home to the wealthiest zip code in the country.

Days earlier, Fisher Island’s homeowners' association, separate from the club, rejected $2 million in coronavirus relief aid after residents voted against keeping it.