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Surprising Recipients of PPP Loans     07/07 06:28

   The government's small business lending program has benefited millions of 
companies, including many you probably wouldn't have expected.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The government's small business lending program has 
benefited millions of companies, with the goal of minimizing the number of 
layoffs Americans have suffered in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Yet 
the recipients include many you probably wouldn't have expected.

   Kanye West's clothing line. The sculptor Jeff Koons. Law firms and 
high-dollar hedge funds. The Girl Scouts. Political groups on both the left and 
right.

   All told, the Treasury Department's Paycheck Protection Program authorized 
$520 billion for nearly 5 million mostly small businesses and nonprofits. On 
Monday, the government released the names and some other details of recipients 
who were approved for $150,000 or more.

   That amounted to fewer than 15% of all borrowers. The Associated Press and 
other news organizations are suing the government to obtain the names of the 
remaining recipients.

   Economists generally credit the program with preventing the job market 
meltdown this spring from becoming even worse. More than 22 million jobs were 
lost in March and April. But roughly one-third of them were regained in May and 
June -- a faster rebound than many analysts had expected.

   The government acted quickly in early April, with Treasury lending the first 
$349 billion in just two weeks. The program got off to a rocky start, one 
marked by confusion and difficulty for many companies that sought loans.

   "The process was messy, and they couldn't target it as much," Diane Swonk, 
chief economist at accounting firm Grant Thornton, said of Treasury.

   Here are seven unlikely recipients of the PPP loans:

   JEFF KOONS

   Koons, a modernist sculptor, is known best for his work with large, metallic 
balloon-like animals. His "Rabbit" sculpture fetched $91 million at auction 
last year.

   Koons' studio was approved for $1 million to $2 million, the government's 
data shows. (The data shows only ranges for the amounts of approved loans.) His 
studio said it employed 53 people before the pandemic. The PPP loans can be 
forgiven if employers use most of the money to keep their workers on the 
payroll.

   WALL STREET AND PRIVATE EQUITY

   Nearly 600 asset management companies and private equity firms were approved 
for money from the PPP, according to government data.

   Financial firms were generally not badly hurt by the coronavirus pandemic. 
Their employees were largely able to keep working, and they weren't among the 
industries that had to be shut down by government orders. In addition, of 
course, investment managers and private equity employees tend to be exceedingly 
well-paid occupations.

   According to the data, those 583 companies reported supporting roughly 
14,800 jobs collectively with the money from the program. That's an average of 
25 employees per company.

   One other notable financial company that borrowed from the program: 
Rosenblatt Securities, which commands one of the largest physical presences on 
the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Rosenblatt borrowed between $1 
million and $2 million.

   KANYE WEST'S CLOTHING LINE

   Kanye West's clothing-and-sneaker brand Yeezy received a loan of between $2 
million and $5 million, according to the data released by Treasury. The company 
employed 106 people in mid-February before the pandemic struck.

   Yeezy, best known for its $250 sneakers, just announced a major deal with 
Gap that will have the rap superstar designing hoodies and T-shirts to be sold 
in the chain's 1,100 stores around the world. (A representative for Yeezy 
didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.)

   Last weekend, West, a notable fan of President Donald Trump, tweeted that he 
was running for president.

   Some other well-known fashion and retail names whose businesses were 
pummeled by store shutdowns were also approved for loans. The list included 
high-end designers Oscar de la Renta and Vera Wang and suit maker Hickey 
Freeman. All their loans were in the $2-million-to-$5 million range.

   POLITICAL GROUPS

   The Americans for Tax Reform Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the anti-tax 
lobbying group Americans for Tax Reform, was approved for a loan of up to 
$350,000. ATR, led by the anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, who has long 
supported a smaller federal government, said it didn't oppose the PPP. It 
described the program "as compensation for a government taking during the 
shutdown."

   The Center for Law and Social Policy, a research and advocacy group focused 
on policies supporting low-income Americans, was authorized for a loan of up to 
$1 million, according to government data.

   THE GIRL SCOUTS

   More than 30 Girl Scout chapters across the country received PPP loans, the 
Treasury said. The Girl Scouts of Montana and Wyoming were approved for between 
$350,000 and $1 million.

   JIM JUSTICE, BILLIONAIRE GOVERNOR

   West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice's family companies received at least $6.3 
million from the program.

   Justice, a Republican, is considered to be West Virginia's richest person 
through his ownership of dozens of coal and agricultural businesses, many of 
which have been sued for unpaid debts. At least six Justice family businesses 
were approved for loans, including The Greenbrier Sporting Club, an exclusive 
club attached to a lavish resort that Justice owns called The Greenbrier.

   Justice, a billionaire, acknowledged last week that his private companies 
received money from the program but said he didn't know the dollar amounts. A 
representative for the governor's family companies didn't immediately return 
emails seeking comment.

   RESTAURANT CHAINS

   TGI Fridays and P.F. Chang's China Bistro were among the major restaurant 
chains that were approved for loans.

   Dallas-based TGI Fridays, which has around 500 restaurants nationwide, 
obtained between $5 million and $10 million in loans from the program. In 2014, 
TGI Fridays was bought by the the New York private equity firm TriArtisan 
Capital Advisors. That firm also owns P.F. Chang's China Bistro, which was also 
approved for a loan.

   Though the PPP program was designed to help small businesses, big hotel and 
restaurant chains were also allowed to apply. A message seeking comment was 
left with TGI Fridays.

   P.F. Chang's China Bistro says a PPP loan helped it keep 12,000 workers 
employed and transition its restaurants to carry-out-only during the 
coronavirus pandemic. Scottsdale, Arizona-based P.F. Chang's, which has more 
than 210 restaurants around the country, was approved for between $5 million 
and $10 million from the PPP program, according to the government data.

 
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