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- The U.S. Small Business Administration and Treasury Department started the Paycheck Protection Program in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
- The program offered loans to businesses affected by COVID-19 with money to pay up to eight weeks of payroll costs. Some companies used the money to rehire laid-off employees.
- Lawmakers are not barred from taking advantage of the program and Democratic and Republican politicians both received loans for their businesses.
Conservative politicians have condemned President Joe Biden’s plan to cancel certain student debt. U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., said it would be unfair to people who didn’t take on loan or who already paid theirs off. U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., said the relief shouldn't be footed by farmers, ranchers and teachers. And the House Judiciary GOP tweeted, "If you take out a loan, you pay it back. Period."
That’s when the plan’s proponents, including the White House itself, fired back with what they suggested was evidence of Republican hypocrisy: screenshots of Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness that purportedly benefited these same congressional members.
"Republican members of Congress whose PPP loans were forgiven," read an Aug. 24 Instagram post that listed the names of 13 members of Congress, including Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga.. Alongside each name was a federal loan figure in the thousands or millions of dollars that had supposedly been canceled under that pandemic-era program.
The list is a screenshot from Twitter of a tweet made by the Center for American Progress Action, a left-leaning public policy think tank. The organization was responding to a post from the House Judiciary GOP’s Twitter account that said, "If you take out a loan, you pay it back. Period."
The Instagram post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. Instagram is owned by Facebook’s parent company, Meta. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
In this case, the post checks out.
Comparing the Paycheck Protection Program with student debt forgiveness is not entirely parallel, as the business loans were designed to be forgiven as long as the money went toward pandemic-related costs and expenses.
U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., whose businesses had their loans forgiven, said it "takes a special kind of idiocy to equate (student debt forgiveness) to the PPP.
"The PPP helped people remain employed while the government literally shut down much of the economy," Norman said.
Bharat Ramamurti, deputy director of the president's National Economic Council, told reporters the comparison was fair and Republicans were following a double standard.
The Instagram post and original tweet do not name a source for the loan amounts. But other social media users have used a database established by the nonprofit news organization ProPublica that tracks businesses that received loans from the program.
ProPublica’s database was made with information obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests from the U.S. Small Business Administration, which implemented the Paycheck Protection Program with the Treasury Department.
The program, established by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, aka CARES, began in March 2020 to help small businesses affected by COVID-19 cover payrolls and, in some cases, hire back employees who were laid off. Companies across the country received $787.2 billion in loans, the Small Business Administration said.
Lawmakers are not excluded from participating in the Paycheck Protection Program, and politicians from both sides of the political aisle received loans for their businesses.
We looked up the companies connected to the politicians listed in the Instagram post with ProPublica’s database and found the numbers in the post were mostly accurate. There were discrepancies for two people who, the database showed, took more in loans from the program than the screenshot listed.
Before taking office in January 2021, Marjorie Taylor Greene and her husband, Perry Greene, bought Taylor Commercial Inc., a construction business owned by her family in Alpharetta, Georgia. The company took out a $182,300 loan from the program.
Car dealerships owned by Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., before he took office in January 2021, also took in loans from the COVID-era program. Sarasota 500 LLC, which operates Sarasota Ford in Florida, received a $2.32 million loan; Nissan of Elizabeth City in North Carolina got a $384,200 loan. The government forgave both loans for a combined $2.6 million.
KTAK Corp., a restaurant management company co-owned by Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., had a $1.07 million loan forgiven by the government.
Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas, owns a Texas car dealership through the JRW Corp. in Fort Worth that received a $1.43 million loan.
Four Pennsylvania car dealerships owned by Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., took in a combined $974,100 in Paycheck Protection Program loans, ProPublica’s database shows. Mike Kelly Automotive, LP received $197,300, Mike Kelly Automotive Group Inc. received $327,500, Mike Kelly Hyundai received $180,800 and Mike Kelly Chevrolet received $268,500.
Heartland Tractor Co., a farming equipment company owned by Rep. Vicki Hartzler, R-Mo., and her husband, received a $451,200 loan.
Five car dealerships owned by the husband of Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., received a combined $3.1 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans. The loans to DM Motor, Dutch Miller Chevrolet, Dutch Miller Subaru, Dutch Miller of Charleston and Dutch Miller of Charlotte were all forgiven.
The Instagram post differed for the Paycheck Protection Program amount Mullin received. The post claims he received $988,700, when ProPublica reported he received at least $1.44 million across four of his companies — Mullin Environmental, Mullin Plumbing, Mullin Plumbing West Division and Mullin Services.
The Instagram post listed Norman, a sitting member of 23 different companies, as receiving $306,520 in Paycheck Protection Program loans. However, ProPublica found Norman-associated businesses had received even more loan money.
At least three companies associated with Norman received four Paycheck Protection Program loans. FM Hotel LLC received $169,100, GBC Rock Hill LLC received $164,900 and Catawba Hotel Associates II received loans of $114,400 and $160,100. All told, Norman-associated companies received $608,500 in loans.
An Instagram post listed 13 Republican politicians who criticized Biden’s plan to cancel student debt but took out Paycheck Protection Program loans that the government forgave.
Businesses owned by or associated with the politicians named in the post did receive Paycheck Protection Program loans. Businesses connected to two politicians named in the post received more than the Instagram post showed.
We rate this post True.
Instagram post, Aug. 24, 2022
Archive of Instagram post
White House, Remarks by President Biden Announcing Student Loan Debt Relief Plan, Aug. 25, 2022
Twitter post, Aug. 24, 2022
The New York Times, "White House Snaps Back at Twitter Critics of Student Loan Relief," Aug. 26, 2022
U.S. Small Business Administration, PPP loan forgiveness, accessed Aug. 26, 2022
ProPublica, Tracking PPP, July 7, 2020
U.S. Small Business Administration, Forgiveness Platform Lender Submission Metrics, accessed Aug. 21, 2022
The Washington Post, "Data: Congress created virus aid, then reaped the benefits," July 7, 2020
Bradenton Herald, "Congressman Vern Buchanan’s car dealerships accepted millions in COVID-19 relief loans," July 8, 2020
Roll Call, "$14M in relief funds find members of Congress and family," July 8, 2020
Salon, "GOP congressmen reap millions in federal loans for personal car dealerships," Sept. 25, 2021
Politico, "Members of Congress took small-business loans — and the full extent is unknown," June 16, 2020
Clerk of the House of Representatives, Rep. Matt Gaetz Financial Disclosure Report, Aug. 16, 2021
Clerk of the House of Representatives, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene Financial Disclosure Report, Aug. 13, 2021
Clerk of the House of Representatives, Rep. Gregory Pence Financial Disclosure Report, Jan. 11, 2018
Stanford Graduate School of Business, Trace Die Cast, 2002
Clerk of the House of Representatives, Rep. Ralph Norman financial disclosure report, Aug. 13, 2021
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