Charles Payne rips big banks for pushing small businesses to 'back of the queue' for COVID-19 relief funds

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Fox Business host Charles Payne reacted on Tuesday to the fact that dozens of publicly traded companies and even some communities tapped government-funded rescue programs amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“The powerful, the rich, those who didn’t really need the money, got the money,” he said.

Payne made the comment on “Fox & Friends” after a new analysis revealed that more than 200 publicly traded companies had applied to get funds from the Paycheck Protection Program, which was created by Congress to help small businesses navigate the unprecedented crisis.

At least 222 public companies received forgivable loans totaling more than $870 million through the PPP, according to Washington D.C.-based data analytics firm FactSquared.

Some of those public companies, including restaurat chain Shake Shack, have already returned the loan it received from the U.S. government.

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Payne referenced a Crain’s Chicago Business report, which said sandwich chain Potbelly is following the lead of other large, publicly traded restaurant operators that are returning millions in federal funds following criticism from small businesses shut out of the initial round of PPP money.

Payne noted that Chicago-based Potbelly executives were probably thinking if the $10 million dollars they got from the federal government were “worth all the negative publicity that’s going to be heaped upon them.”

“Some of these businesses are in dire straits,” Payne noted. “Potbelly has been losing money for four years so I understand that they’re desperate, they saw a money grab and they took advantage of it.”

“But I also say more probably a pox from the banks that give them the money before the small businesses,” Payne continued. “JPMorgan was the one that gave the money to Shake Shack and to Pot Belly.”

He added that the applications from the “very small businesses” – including his own – were “put at the back of the queue.”

"Why did they do that? I’ve been a faithful, loyal customer for three decades, I put millions of dollars through, I paid untold amounts of fees, so I’m living this along with most of our audience," he noted.

Payne noted Florida’s exclusive community and home to one of the wealthiest ZIP codes in the country, Fisher Island, reportedly was approved for a $2 million federal loan through the government's PPP.

“Thankfully the residents there said, ‘What are you doing?’ They voted to give the money back,” Payne said.

He pointed out that that is an example of the “powerful” and “rich,” those who didn’t really need the money, getting the money from the federal government.

Some universities, including Ivy League power school Harvard University, received millions of dollars in federal aid as well. Harvard University said it would return its $8.7 million in CARES Act relief funding just a day after criticism from President Trump during a coronavirus task force briefing.

“If you want to help students, it’s admirable, do it, but don’t be magnanimous with the taxpayer dime while small businesses are starving, literally drowning minute by minute,” Payne said.

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He added, “When you are called out, pay the money back for sure and if you’re not called out, take a look, be introspective, be honest, think of where you are as an American citizen or entity and do the right thing.”

Fox Business’ Megan Henney and Lucas Manfredi contributed to this report.