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Major hotel group to return millions in PPP funding

Major hotel group to return millions in PPP funding

Ashford Inc., a large hospitality conglomerate that received nearly $70 million from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) included in the $2.2 trillion stimulus package passed in March, said Saturday that it would be returning the money.

The company encompasses a sizable network of hotels and resorts, and its subsidiaries applied for $126 million in loans being offered through the PPP, The New York Times reports.

The news marks a change in the group's stance on the issue. Previously, the company said that it wouldn't be returning the money, and underscored that concerns over large corporations receiving loans from the program were "misplaced." 

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Multiple lawmakers called for Ashford to return the money, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerOcasio-Cortez, progressives call on Senate not to confirm lobbyists or executives to future administration posts The 2016 and 2020 Senate votes are about the same thing: constitutionalist judges Pelosi and Trump go a full year without speaking MORE (D-N.Y.) calling for an investigation into the company's loans.

Last week Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinSchumer labels McConnell's scheduled coronavirus stimulus vote as 'a stunt' Pelosi: White House made 'unacceptable changes' to testing language during negotiations on coronavirus stimulus Mnuchin joins Israeli delegation in Bahrain to formally normalize relations MORE along with the Small Business Administration – which is involved in the distribution of the loans – issued an advisory that stated large companies such as Ashford should return the money that they received by May 7.

In its statement, Ashford cited this new guideline as a reason for returning the funding .

"While we believed then and continue to believe today that we qualify for PPP loans based on the legislation and rule-making in place at the time our applications were submitted, continuous SBA rule changes and evolving opinions by Administration officials have led us to conclude that we may no longer qualify," the company said.

Ashford's CEO and chairman is Monty Bennett, a staunch conservative who donated heavily to President TrumpDonald John TrumpPolice say man dangling off Trump Tower Chicago demanding to speak with Trump Fauci says he was 'absolutely not' surprised Trump got coronavirus after Rose Garden event Biden: Trump 'continues to lie to us' about coronavirus MORE's 2016 presidential campaign. For this election cycle, Bennett has already donated over $150,000 to Trump's re-election campaign, according to the Times.

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In a statement, Bennett called on the federal government to aid the hotel industry, a part of the economy that has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic as travel has ceased. 

“We call on Congress, the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve to provide assistance to the hotel industry to protect jobs and asset values that have been severely impaired as a result of the pandemic and the government’s actions that have followed,” Bennett said.