OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – The family businesses of two Oklahoma congressmen have received at least $ 1.8 million from a federal bailout program meant to keep small businesses afloat during the coronavirus pandemic, according to data released Monday by the US Treasury Department.
Four companies owned by Republican Markwayne Mullin received a total of $ 800,000 to $ 1.9 million from the Paycheque Protection Program, including Broken Arrow-based Mullin Plumbing, Inc., Mullin Environmental, Inc., Mullin Services, Inc. and Moore-based Mullin Plumbing West Division, according to the data. These companies said they were keeping 140 jobs thanks in part to the loans, the data showed.
Mullin spokeswoman Meredith Blanford said the congressman was not involved in the day-to-day operations of the companies and referred the questions to the companies’ chief financial officer.
The data also shows that KTAK Corp., a management company of several McDonald’s restaurants, from Tulsa-based Kevin Hern, received between $ 1 million and $ 2 million.
“Although Kevin is not involved in the day-to-day operations of the business, he is happy to share that the family business has been able to keep all employees at their current employment levels or move employees from part-time to full-time. , ”Hern Chief of Staff Cameron Foster said in a statement. “This means that even though the service sector has been particularly affected by the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to the PPP loan, none of the family business employees have had to file an unemployment claim in due to the financial pressure of quarantine. “
While voting on legislation that their businesses could benefit from may not be illegal, it does appear to be a conflict of interest, said Aaron Scherb, spokesperson for Common Cause, a non-partisan government watchdog based in Washington, DC.
“Unfortunately, members of Congress frequently vote on bills that they can personally benefit from, and in almost all cases it is not illegal, although it certainly looks and smells bad,” said Scherb. “We think it should definitely be illegal.”
Data shows that more than 6,800 Oklahoma businesses, including private schools, tribal casinos, law firms and construction companies, have received loans of $ 150,000 or more.
The aid plan is the centerpiece of the federal government’s plan to save an economy devastated by closures and uncertainty. Under this program, the government is supporting $ 659 billion in low-interest loans from banks. Taxpayer money will repay loans if borrowers use them for payroll, rent, and similar expenses. Companies generally must have fewer than 500 workers to be eligible.
Demand was so high that a first injection of $ 349 billion ran out in just two weeks. Many Main Street businesses couldn’t navigate the application process quickly enough for one of these early loans before the funding dried up. Meanwhile, several hundred publicly traded companies – barely the image of a small business – have received loans of up to $ 10 million each, sparking a public backlash and leading dozens to repay the loan. ‘money.
The public may never know the identity of more than 80% of the nearly 5 million beneficiaries to date, as the administration has refused to disclose details of loans under $ 150,000 – the vast majority of borrowers . This secrecy sparked legal action by a group of news agencies, including the Associated Press.