These billionaire-backed businesses received millions in taxpayer-funded aid through PPP

Some $521B in taxpayer-funded aid went to more than 4.9M small businesses

At the end of March, the federal government established the Paycheck Protection Program, a $670 billion rescue fund intended to keep small businesses afloat during the coronavirus pandemic and avert millions of potential layoffs.

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New government data released on Monday shows that some $521 billion in taxpayer-funded aid went to more than 4.9 million small businesses, propping up 51 million jobs in the midst of the virus-induced crisis. But the disclosures by the Small Business Administration and Treasury Department highlight how the high-profile program also benefited wealthy and well-connected businesses, in addition to mom-and-pop shops.

By and large, the rescue program is open to any business with fewer than 500 employees per location, whether it’s owned by a billionaire or not. So long as 60 percent of the money goes toward maintaining payroll, the federal government will forgive it, essentially turning the loan into a grant.

TRUMP ADMIN RELEASES NAMES OF ALMOST 700,000 PPP BORROWERS

When the fund drew criticism for granting multimillion-dollar loans to large, public companies, the Trump administration scrambled to close the loopholes that had allowed them to tap the fund, including pledging to audit any loan worth more than $2 million. The government also required that companies make a “required certification in good faith” that the PPP loan request is necessary.

Companies returned or canceled at least $30 billion in loans, a senior administration official told reporters during a call on Monday. The aid program reopened to applicants on Monday, with close to $132 billion remaining in the fund.

The pandemic dragged the nation into the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, with more than 48 million Americans filing for unemployment benefits since the crisis began. It’s hit small businesses particularly hard: During the two-month period from February to April, the number of active business owners plunged by 22 percent, or 3.3 million, according to a June paper published by Robert Fairlie, an economics professor at the University of California in Santa Cruz.

COMPANIES RETURNED $30B IN VIRUS RELIEF LOANS FROM PPP

These are the billionaires, and the companies they back, that received PPP loans. (The SBA did not disclose precise dollar amounts of the loans and instead provided a range for each loan, making it impossible to know the exact sum that companies received).

Kanye West:

In this Nov. 17, 2019 file photo Kanye West answers questions from Sr. pastor Joel Osteen during the 11 am service at Lakewood Church, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke,File).

West’s clothing and sneaker brand, Yeezy, received a loan worth somewhere between $2 million and $5 million. The money helped the company save 106 jobs, according to the federal data. Yeezy and Adidas, which manufactures and markets the high-end shoes, did not respond to a request for comment.

West is worth an estimated $1.3 billion, according to Forbes.

Ron Burkle: 

Ron Burkle attends the John Varvatos 10th anniversary with launch of Original MOONSHINE Clear Whiskey at John Varvatos Bowery NYC on September 11, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Eugene Gologursky/WireImage for Niche Media, LLC)

Soho House, the exclusive membership club controlled by Burkle, received as much as $22 million through six PPP loans, records show. The loans went to separate locations in Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami and New York. Combined, Soho House saved 1,996 jobs across five locations.

PPP REOPENS TO APPLICANTS WITH $132 BILLION REMAINING

“We are, like so many businesses, racking up losses every day,” the company told Bloomberg News in a statement. “Banks and landlords have deferred payments, shareholders have injected money, suppliers have been flexible, our senior team has taken pay cuts that have been invested into a Soho Impact Support Fund and, crucially, our incredible members have stayed loyal to our Houses and the teams that work there.”

Burkle is worth $1.4 billion.

Jim Justice: 

In this Jan. 8, 2020, file photo, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice delivers his annual State of the State address in the House Chambers at the state capitol in Charleston, W.Va. (AP Photo/Chris Jackson, File)

Companies owned by Justice, the Republican governor of West Virginia, received up to $24 million from the PPP.

The Greenbrier Hotel, the luxury resort in West Virginia, received a loan worth $5 million to $10 million -- making it just one nine companies in West Virginia to get a loan of that size. The company said the money saved zero jobs.

LUXURY RESTAURANT CHAIN BACKED BY ROBERT DE NIRO RECEIVED OVER A DOZEN PPP LOANS

In total, Justice-owned companies received anywhere between $11.2 million and $24.4 million in PPP money. Blackstone Energy LTD and Bluestone Coke LLC, two coal companies owned by Justice’s family, each received $2 million to $5 million. Ranger Fuel Coal Corp. received $1 million to $2 million, and Justice Energy Company Inc. received $150,000 to $350,000. Combined, the money saved at least 191 jobs (data is not available on Blackstone, Bluestone or Justice Energy).

Justice is worth $1.2 billion.

A spokesperson with the West Virginia governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Joe Farrell:

Joe Farrell attends The Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation 14th Annual The Hamptons Happening on July 14, 2018 in Bridgehampton, New York. (Photo by Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

The billionaire property developer, a prominent Republican fundraiser, received up to $1 million in PPP loans for his New York-based company Farrell Building. With the loan, he retained 41 jobs, according to the government data.

AT LEAST 4 MEMBERS OF CONGRESS BENEFITED PERSONALLY FROM PPP LOANS

The lender of the loan was BNB Bank.

This year, Farrell rented out his 17,000-square-foot, $40 million Hamptons estate -- known as Sandcastle -- for close to $2 million to a Manhattan family fleeing New York City due to the coronavirus, the New York Post reported. The home was previously rented by Beyonce and Jay-Z in 2012.

Alec Gores:

Alec Gores (Vitac Holdings)

Gores Vitac Holdings, an investment holding company that's controlled by tech billionaire Gores, received a loan between $5 million and $10 million. Vitac is the nation's largest provider of captioning services with clients that include CNN and the BBC.

Gores is worth $1.9 billion, according to Forbes.

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