If the United States government loves small businesses so much, why doesn’t it marry them? On Tuesday, the Small Business Administration released a flood of data about its Paycheck Protection Program recipients, the LLCs and Incs that received some portion of the $522.95 billion allocated toward helping businesses stay afloat. The money is intended mainly to pay employees during the economic gutpunch packed by COVID-19, but a very limited number of other uses are allowed, including payments of mortgages and leases. (For reference, NPR estimated in March that those $1200 CARES Act-mandated stimulus checks mailed directly to individuals would add up to $560 billion in aid.)
So who exactly got in on that big chunk of change? Surely it all went to the worthy Mom and Pop businesses that keep the lifeblood of the American Dream pumping through our collective veins—the kind of establishments where everyone knows your name, customers wink and say, “Keep the change!”, and the assistant manager looks forward to dressing up as Santa and handing out free lollipops at the local preschool for orphans every year. Right?
Not exactly—in August, the New York Times reported that scammers managed to squeeze the SBA for $62 million in fraudulent loans, and on Tuesday they reported that 1 percent of all participants in the program received 25 percent of the loan money.
Hmm, 1 percent… Where have we heard that figure before? Per the Times, the 600 businesses in that lucky pool included a few Trump-adjacent law firms, the owners of “New York’s biggest horse tracks,” and P.F. Chang’s.
Thanks to this searchable database of PPP loan recipients, it’s now possible to see who, exactly, received a hardy PPP loan from Uncle Sam during these trying times. We took a look at which small businesses were propped up by politicians who actually give a damn about the workers who keep this great nation running hot—and it turns out, it’s a real who’s who of scrappy, salt-of-the-earth entrepreneurs.
Since, as the name suggests, PPP loans were primarily intended to keep the flow of money running smoothly from employer to employee, which makes sense for Koons, an artist who famously employs a whole slew of workers to execute his seven-figure visions. Big-ass balloon animals for Bank of America’s lobby don’t design and sculpt themselves!
Flywheel was sued into bankruptcy after Peloton accused its employees of corporate espionage and the company bricked all the at-home smart exercise bikes it sold as of February. But that doesn’t mean the company can’t apply for a loan just shy of $2 million.
Zuckerbrot is the originator of the embattled F-Factor Diet; one former employee told the New York Times in August that the company culture centered around the “pursuit of thinness at any cost,” while former clients alleged grievous side effects from following the diet, including “severe abdominal pain” and even an alleged miscarriage. According to a lawsuit Zuckerbrot filed in October against her main critic, Instagram influencer Emily Gellis, her company’s revenue has taken a nosedive due to the negative buzz—something not even a hefty helping of COVID-19 aid could have prevented.
Greek life wasn’t exactly on top of COVID-19 containment this year, and may have struggled nationwide with calls for abolition from Greek students themselves, but at least Greek organizations got a helping hand from the U.S. government in the form of some cold, hard cash.
Jeffree Star is best known as a wildly popular, highly controversial YouTuber who most recently made headlines for allegations that he perpetrated physical and sexual violence against several different people throughout the course of his career, including (corroborated) claims that he performed non-consensual oral sex on a 19-year-old man who he’d previously shocked with a Taser. But he’s also a “makeup mogul” who the SBA handed the better part of half a million dollars in cash.
The Naughtiest Event to come from this “lifestyle” facilitating group this year? Naughty in N’awlins, a 250-person swingers convention held in mid-November, while COVID-19 cases climbed in New Orleans, Louisiana… after which dozens of people tested positive for COVID-19. CEO Bob Hannaford cited his company’s five full-time employees as part of his motivation in an unapologetic blog post about why he moved forward with the event mid-pandemic.
Rae Wellness went viral earlier this year when its “metabolism drops” went viral on TikTok among teenagers trying to lose weight fast. The company pulled the product from the market in February after VICE reported on the phenomenon—but they’re still chugging along, selling probiotics and collagen capsules at retailers like Target and Urban Outfitters, and thus in need of relief in this decidedly unhealthy economic period.
Man Repeller founder Leandra Medine Cohen faced allegations of workplace racism from former and current employees at her long-running fashion blog, and stepped back/rebranded accordingly… for two months… before abruptly shutting down in late October. At least the company won’t have to worry about applying for a second PPP loan!
Arielle Charnas, COVID Influencer
Blogger and influencer Arielle Charnas was widely derided as an early adopter of bad COVID behavior back in March, when she fled New York City for the Hamptons… after she tested positive for the virus… thanks to a test she received from a friend during a state-wide testing shortage. Wow, just felt such a pang of nostalgia typing that all out! Anyway, the federal government gave her more than a quarter of a million dollars for her fashion company, because while you can’t put a price tag on public safety, you can put one on pink wide leg cable knit pants—$165.
Dov Charney’s Zombie American Apparel
Los Angeles Apparel is the company that emerged from the ashes of disgraced CEO Dov Charney’s American Apparel. While its offerings are nearly identical to those from Dov’s original brainchild, the new name allows consumers to pretend they don’t know who runs the company—a charade they’ll be able to continue performing, thanks to a multimillion dollar loan. Ethically dicey bodysuits here we come!
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