After withering pressure from lawmakers, the federal government on Monday released data on hundreds of thousands of borrowers from the $660 billion Paycheck Protection Program – the main relief vehicle for small and mid-size companies suffering from the pandemic lockdowns.
The data released by the Small Business Administration and Treasury shows that a broad cross-section of American businesses received loans, including gyms, hair salons, media outlets, law firms and construction companies.
The disclosure of companies receiving Paycheck Protection Program loans also puts a fresh spotlight on politically connected recipients.
Multiple members of Congress or their families benefited from the Paycheck Protection Program, the data shows.
They include Rep. Mike Kelly, a Republican from Pennsylvania who owns namesake car dealerships, received three loans ranging up to $1 million, according to the data. His spokesman said in a statement that Kelly is not involved in day-to-day operations and “was not part of the discussions between the business and the PPP lender.”
Missouri Republican Rep. Vicky Hartzler, whose family farm supply business also benefited from the program, defended her family’s loans back in April writing “our family businesses applied for and received PPP loans to ensure our employees could remain employed and the business could pay expenses. These loans are allowable for Members of Congress and were acquired in accordance to the provisions written into the CARES Act.”
Political groups and think tanks are on the list, including the Messina Group, a strategic consulting group founded by Jim Messina, a former adviser to President Barack Obama. Nonprofits associated with congressional groups also benefited. The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute both received loans between $350,000 and $1 million, according to the data.
Conservative media outlet Newsmax, run by President Donald Trump associate Christopher Ruddy, received between $2 and $5 million from the program. The Washington Times received between $1 and $2 million in loans and the Daily Caller also received money – as did left-leaning watchdog group Media Matters, which received up to $2 million.
About 8% of the money went to companies in the hard-hit food and hotel sectors, including chains like PF Chang’s. Non-profits were also eligible for the aid, and groups like the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America and the Girl Scouts of America received money, according to the data.
The data also showed that loans went to some private colleges and primary schools, too, including the elite Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC, as well as several arts organizations. The American Ballet Theatre, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art were among those to receive relief.
Churches as well as affiliated schools and social services organizations across the country qualified. According to a CNN analysis of the data, at least 2,234 loans, totaling more than $812 million went to Catholic organizations, including the Archdiocese of Washington.
Other recipients included Yeezy, Kanye West’s fashion brand, which the government reported received between $2 million and $5 million in loans.
More than 4.8 million small businesses tapped more than $520 billion in potentially forgivable loans through the program – a central pillar of the $2.2 trillion emergency economic relief efforts deployed in March to keep the economy afloat as the pandemic led to mass shutdowns of businesses around the country.
The program ran into a series of issues in its earliest days given the speed of its creation. Between a rocky rollout, regularly shifting rules and guidance, and an initial round of funding that favored small businesses with long-term relationships with lenders, there was no shortage of criticism from businesses, banks and lawmakers alike.
Disclosures by a series of large public companies and well-known brands ranging from restaurants like Potbelly, Shake Shack and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse to the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers, also raised pressure on the administration as it worked through the program’s earliest days – and largely drove the push to force the release of more information. All of those companies ultimately returned the loan money.
But those cases made up only a sliver of the overall borrowers in the program, leaving millions of loans in the dark – until Monday.
As it was designed, the program provides potentially forgivable loans to businesses with fewer than 500 employees in order to keep their workforce on payroll. The program was so critical at its inception that a first round of funding dried up in less than two weeks and had to be replenished. But interest in the program largely dried up in recent weeks, as shifting rules and the inability of borrowers to come back for a second loan limited the number of small businesses willing or able to go through the application process.
More than $130 billion in allocated funds remained unused at the time of the program’s closure Tuesday night – money that will serve as the basis for the next round of small business relief. Lawmakers also agreed last week to extend the application window for the current program, which closed on June 30, until August 8.
The release completes a reversal for the Trump administration, which for weeks has ignored requests from lawmakers and media organizations for loan-level data. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told a Senate committee last month that no data would be forthcoming, only to change course amid withering pressure.
The data released does not comprise the entire universe of loan data, however. The release captures borrower information for loans above $150,000 – which only makes up about 14% of the total lending in the program.
But the Treasury Department, Small Business Administration and lawmakers settled on that number over concerns that releasing loans under that threshold could create proprietary and privacy concerns for the smallest borrowers – sole proprietorships in particular.
House Democrats, however, rejected that decision and continued to pressure for access the access to all of the data, something Mnuchin and SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza said they will send up to Capitol Hill as soon as Monday.
CORRECTION: This story has been corrected to reflect that the American Ballet Theatre received a loan.
CNN’s Janie Boschma, Clare Foran, Sergio Hernandez and Melissa Tapia contributed to this report.