Members of Congress benefited from PPP loan program: report

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Several lawmakers have reportedly benefited from the Paycheck Protection Program—the nearly $500 billion package that provided relief for small businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Politico reported that a group of four lawmakers—both Democrats and Republicans—have acknowledged being associated with companies that have received PPP loans. The businesses, according to Politico, are either run by the lawmakers’ families, or have their spouses in senior positions.

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The lawmakers include Republican Rep. Roger Williams of Texas, who owns auto dealerships and car repair shops, and Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri, whose family reportedly owns farms and equipment suppliers in the Midwest. Democratic Rep. Susie Lee of Nevada was listed in the Politico report, noting her husband is the chief executive officer of a casino developer, and Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel Powell from Florida, whose husband is a senior executive at a restaurant chain. Politico reported that the restaurant chain has returned the PPP loan.

The lawmakers all told Politico the loans were acquired through proper channels and part of their efforts to keep their workers employed.

Politico reported that Democrats are trying to obtain a list of recipients of the PPP loans from the Small Business Administration and the Treasury Department, but that the Trump administration, thus far, has yet to provide those details.

President Trump signed the nearly half a trillion dollar “Phase 3.5” emergency interim coronavirus relief package in April, which replenished the fund for small businesses.

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The bill delivers a $310 billion infusion to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which helps businesses with fewer than 500 employees obtain loans that can cover eight weeks of their payroll, benefits and other expenses. Thirty billion of that is reserved for community-based lenders, small banks and credit unions, and $30 billion is for mid-sized banks and credit unions.

The bill also provided an additional $50 billion for the Small Business Administration’s emergency disaster lending and $10 billion in SBA disaster grants.

The PPP was created as part of the more than $2.2 trillion “Phase 3” stimulus package, known as the CARES Act, which passed last month. The program converts the small business loans to grants and would be fully forgiven if 75 percent of the loan is used to keep employees on the payroll.

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The PPP ran out of funding in early April, spurring Congress to pass the “Phase 3.5” relief package to replenish the PPP funds and fund other programs.

But earlier this month, the president signed into law bipartisan legislation giving small business owners who tapped a federal aid program more flexibility in how they spend the loans, the latest effort by the federal government to blunt the economic pain of the coronavirus pandemic.

The new law, the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act, eases the restrictions on how the money must be spent in order to be forgiven. Loan recipients now only have to spend 60 percent of the aid on maintaining payroll — including salary, health insurance, leave and severance pay —  rather than the previous 75 percent rule. The remaining 40 percent can go toward operating costs like rent and utilities.

Businesses now have 24 weeks to spend the money instead of two months. The bill also lets small businesses that accessed the fund defer payroll taxes.

Fox Business' Megan Henney contributed to this report.