Millions in coronavirus aid went to major Trump donors: AP

Millions of dollars in federal coronavirus aid through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) were given to businesses owned by major donors to President Trump, The Associated Press reported Tuesday.

As much as $273 million in federal assistance went to more than 100 companies owned or operated by major donors to Trump and his campaigning efforts, according to an AP analysis of data released by the Treasury Department on Monday.

Most of these companies received approval for PPP loans in early April, while eight of them secured the funding in early May, according to the analysis. 

The business owners have given at least $11.1 million since May 2015 to Trump’s campaign committees, the Republican National Committee and America First Action, a super PAC endorsed by the president. Each of the owners gave at least $20,000 to campaign efforts, according to the analysis.

The AP noted that there is no evidence these companies received better treatment because of their donations to the president, and their loans only accounted for a portion of the $659 billion loan program.

But the administration has faced scrutiny for the distribution of funds in the PPP after it first refused to disclose which companies were granted loans until lawmakers pushed for transparency. 

The data shows that conservative website NewsMax was approved for a loan of up to $5 million on April 13, and its CEO, Christopher Ruddy, has donated $525,000 to political committees backing Trump. 

Muy Brands, a company in San Antonio that runs Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and Wendy’s franchises, received a loan between $5 million and $10 million. The firm’s owner, James Bodenstedt, has given $672,570 to Trump since 2016, according to the AP.

Another Texas company, M Crowd Restaurant Group, which owns 27 Texan restaurants, was given between $5 million and $10 million. One of the company’s founders, Ray Washburne, was vice chairman of the Trump Victory Committee in 2016 and gave $100,000 to the PAC last year. 

“The PPP was a huge success and saved 51 million American jobs, including at Joe Biden’s old law firm and many companies associated with Obama Administration alums,” Trump campaign spokeswoman Samantha Zager said in a statement to The Hill. “When the rent or mortgage was due, tens of millions of Americans kept receiving paychecks thanks to President Trump’s leadership.”

The Treasury Department on Monday released data on the recipients of loans of at least $150,000. More than 80 percent of the almost 5 million recipients of PPP loans were not included in the data because they received less than $150,000.

Businesses with 500 or fewer employees were able to apply for loans to cover eight weeks of employee payroll, with a cap of $10 million and $100,000 per employee. The loans would be forgivable if the companies spent the funding on payroll, rent or other approved expenses. 

—Updated at 4:02 p.m.

Tags Department of Treasury Donald Trump Donald Trump Donald Trump presidential campaign donors Joe Biden Loans Paycheck Protection Program ppp PPP loans Small Business Administration

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