Businesses owned by billionaire governor have received up to $ 24 million in bailout loans – ProPublica
ProPublica is a non-profit newsroom that investigates abuse of power. Subscribe to receive our biggest stories as soon as they are published.
Companies owned by West Virginia Governor Jim Justice and his family have received up to $ 24 million from one of the federal government’s major coronavirus economic assistance programs, according to data released on Monday.
At least six Justice Empire companies were on the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program aid recipient list.
This made it one of nine companies in West Virginia to receive a loan of this size. Treasury Department officials did not specify the exact amount of the loans, and only made public the identity of companies that received more than $ 150,000.
In total, the justice companies received between 11.2 and 24.4 million dollars in PPP. The Greenbrier Sporting Club, a justice company that operates an upscale residential development adjacent to the hotel, received between $ 1 million and $ 2 million.
Justice Department companies received PPP money from a mix of small local banks and regional financial institutions. Previous reports have shown that banks favor their existing repeat customers when processing PPP applications.
Justice is classified by Forbes as West Virginia’s richest billionaire and man. He owns a wide range of businesses, including coal mines, resort hotels, and farm interests, many of which are regulated by the state agencies he now heads.
The Justice Business Empire has also been sued dozens of times for non-payment of bills. A ProPublica survey found over $ 128 million in judgments and settlements in such cases.
In data released Monday, The Greenbrier put “0” in a column on the number of jobs that would be kept because of the loan. Under the PPP, loans do not have to be repaid if companies follow the key elements of the program, mainly using a certain percentage of the money – originally 75%, but reduced to 60% – for payroll until December 31.
“Under the guise of helping the moms and pop shops of Main Street, the big corporations have taken millions of dollars in government money, represented in the form of loans, but much of it will never be repaid,” Aaron said. Klein, an economist at the Brookings Institution who followed the PPP.
At a COVID-19 press conference last week, Justice acknowledged that his companies likely received PPP aid, although he said he did not know how much. Like President Donald Trump, Justice said when he took office that he would hand over the management of his businesses to these grown children. But, like ProPublica reported last year, Justice continues to guide its business empire.
When asked about the newly released data on Monday, Justice again said he was unsure of the amounts. But the governor added, “I have encouraged all businesses in our state to try to research anything they could possibly ask of the federal government in regards to loans.”
Justice said he believes West Virginia companies have received nearly $ 2 billion from the P3 program, adding, “And I salute every dollar of it.”
New federal data shows that companies owned by two of Justice’s recent political rivals have also received P3 loans.
The Thrasher Group Inc., an engineering firm, received $ 5-10 million. It belongs to Woody Thrasher, who unsuccessfully challenged justice in the Republican primary this year. Government data shows that the loan has saved 441 jobs.
The law firm of Democratic candidate for governor Ben Salango, Preston & Salango, received $ 150,000 to $ 350,000. On Monday, Salango said the loan – he said the exact amount was $ 183,500 – helped his company avoid laying off employees or cutting wages or benefits. Federal data indicates that the business loan retained 10 employees.
In addition to The Greenbrier, which has not listed any retained jobs, two other law firms have left the field blank. Data from three of the other Justice firms listed a total of 406 retained jobs.
The Greenbrier and related entities employ approximately 1,600 people, according to court records. Related court documents, lawyers for The Greenbrier said the resort had already been pushed into “virtual financial insolvency” due to a devastating flood in 2016.
The complex suffered further casualties when it was closed for two months due to COVID-19, and West Virginia’s coal industry has been affected by the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.
Although the program has been criticized for some of the loan recipients, especially large publicly traded companies, all economists praise the PPP for distributing billions to companies relatively quickly, amid the sudden economic shock caused by the pandemic.
Generally, PPP loans are intended for small businesses or those with less than 500 employees. In 2018, there was more than 114,000 these companies in West Virginia. The data released with company names listed 2,300 loans to businesses in West Virginia. The government also released an unnamed list of 15,000 other West Virginia businesses that received loans under $ 150,000.
But there is a derogation to this size limit for companies in the “accommodation and catering” sector.
Through their attorneys, representatives of the Justice Company did not respond to ProPublica’s requests for more detailed comment on PPP loans.