Tag Archives: CARES Act

After Getting ‘Stealth Bailout’ During Pandemic, US Corporations Try to Kill Proposed Tax Hikes

“When it’s time to finally put workers first, big businesses are spending millions to maintain their advantage and preserve the status quo,” said Kyle Herrig of Accountable.US.

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams.  Published 10-21-2021

Members of the Patriotic Millionaires hold a federal tax filing day protest in New York City. Photo: Michael Kink/Twitter

Major U.S. companies that got a “stealth bailout” thanks to congressional pandemic relief legislation are now lobbying against President Joe Biden’s proposal to hike taxes on wealthy individuals and corporations through the Build Back Better package, according to a new Accountable.US analysis provided exclusively to Common Dreams.

Accountable.US takes aim at the recent lobbying activities—and in some cases, statements from top executives—of Apple, Baxter International, Bristol-Myers-Squibb, DuPont de Nemours, FedEx, Johnson & Johnson, Oracle, Walgreens Boots Alliance, and Walmart. Continue reading

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Utilities Took $1.25 Billion in Pandemic Aid Then Shut Off Power to Households Nearly 1 Million Times: Report

“These companies took bailout dollars from taxpayers and turned around to lobby against shutoff moratoria proven to save lives.”

By Brett Wilkins, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 9-30-2021

A new report from BailoutWatch and the Center for Biological Diversity reveals that leading U.S. utilities took $1.25 billion in pandemic relief funds even as they cut off power to vulnerable households nearly a million times. Photo: Matt Wiebe/Flickr/cc

Over a dozen leading U.S. utility companies took more than a billion dollars of publicly-funded pandemic bailout money while pulling the plug on power to vulnerable households nearly a million times, according to a new report out Thursday.

The Center for Biological Diversity and BailoutWatch report—entitled Powerless in the Pandemic: After Bailouts, Electric Utilities Choose Profits Over People—details how utilities used their political power “to secure bailouts that cost taxpayers $1.25 billion, cushioning them from the pandemic economy,” while disconnecting vital services from some of the most vulnerable U.S. households. Continue reading

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America gets a D+ for school infrastructure – but federal COVID relief could pay for many repairs

Money from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan could go toward much-needed improvements to crumbling public school buildings. Erin Clark for The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Michael Addonizio, Wayne State University

Many kids are attending public schools this spring with the use of COVID-19 safety protocols, including more desk spacing, more frequent cleaning and mandates to wear masks.

But far too many of the school buildings themselves remain dilapidated, toxic and in desperate need of structural improvements.

On average, U.S. public schools are more than 50 years old – and by and large they are not being properly maintained, updated or replaced. The American Society of Civil Engineers graded America’s public K-12 infrastructure a D+ in their 2021 Infrastructure Report Card, the same abysmal grade as in their prior 2017 report.

But help may finally be on the way. Continue reading

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Congress Urged to Take ‘Immediate Action’ to Stop Debt Collectors From Snatching Relief Checks

A legislative fix is needed, said one observer, to prevent “a flood of new judgments from debt collectors to siphon stimulus funds out.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 3-14-2021

Screenshot: C-SPAN

Direct payments from the newly approved coronavirus relief package began landing in people’s bank accounts with striking quickness this weekend, but a glaring shortcoming of the American Rescue Plan caused by the arcane procedural tool that Democrats used to pass the bill could prevent checks from reaching many vulnerable households.

Unlike the Covid relief bill that Congress passed through regular order in December, the new $1.9 trillion legislation does not include protections barring debt collectors from hoovering up the checks and using them to pay off people’s private debts—which, as The American Prospect‘s David Dayen put it, makes the American Rescue Plan “also a cash cow for debt collectors.” Continue reading

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‘This Is His Top Priority’: McConnell Advances Another Trump Judge as Covid Relief Bill Remains Unfinished

“As a government shutdown looms, and as the pandemic rages on across America, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell continues to push through Trump’s judges until the very end.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-19-2020

Photo: THE WORLD NEWS/Twitter

Having kept the Senate in session over the weekend to complete work on a nearly $1 trillion coronavirus relief package and an omnibus government funding bill, Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Saturday moved to advance yet another of President Donald Trump’s right-wing judicial appointees as the desperately needed stimulus legislation remained unfinished.

The Republican-controlled Senate’s vote to limit debate on Thompson Michael Dietz, a Trump nominee to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, came as Majority Whip Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) suggested that coronavirus relief talks could spill into Monday as negotiators struggled to resolve a number of outstanding issues. Continue reading

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‘Republican Party Doesn’t Give a Damn About You’: McConnell Admits Direct Checks Only Included to Help GOP Win in Georgia

“Given that this conversion only came after ‘Kelly and David got hammered,’ no one should be fooled—or let him get away with it.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-17-2020

Screenshot: ABC News

After opposing another round of stimulus checks for months in the face of deteriorating economic conditions and widespread suffering, Republican congressional leaders have finally agreed to include direct payments in a coronavirus relief package that could be approved by the end of the week.

During a private GOP conference call Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) provided a straightforward and revealing reason for the sudden change of heart: “Kelly and David are getting hammered.” Continue reading

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‘Beyond Incomprehensible’: Bipartisan Covid Relief Package Would Let Paid Sick and Family Leave Expire

“Extending emergency paid leave at the height of a pandemic is not only something we can afford, it’s something we can’t afford not to do.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 12-9-2020

Photo: THE WORLD NEWS/Twitter

An updated version of the $908 billion bipartisan coronavirus relief proposal currently under negotiation on Capitol Hill does not include an extension of federal paid sick and family leave programs set to expire at the end of the year, an omission that could deprive nearly 90 million workers of key benefits as the pandemic intensifies.

Vicki Shabo, a senior fellow at the think tank New America, told HuffPost Wednesday that the proposal’s exclusion of paid leave benefits is “an affront to all reason,” particularly given how successful the programs have been in preventing coronavirus infections. Continue reading

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With Rent Freezes About to Expire, Mnuchin Lobbies for More Wall Street Bailouts

As millions of Americans stand on the brink of economic annihilation, the money keeps flowing to Wall Street thanks to carefully contrived mechanisms to maintain a dying financial system afloat.

By Raul Diego  Published 12-4-2020 by MintPress News

Steven Mnuchin. Photo: White House

Many prophetic scenes depicted in a series of Mayan codices written in the early days of the Spanish colony, and translated and compiled in El Libro de los Libros del Chilam Balam, describe a world foreign to its original authors. But, one which was barreling down on them and their civilization even as the Mayan high priests recorded their visions for each stop on their cyclical calendar system.

The metaphors they leaned on to describe these new Western values and systems were accurate, despite having nothing comparable in their own cosmology or parallels in their relationship with the earth. In one of the most striking prophecies, the interpreting shaman warns of the days of “the golden club,” subtly alluding to the new paradigm of wealth and commercial imperatives being imposed on their world. Continue reading

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Tens of Millions in PPP Loans Went to Corporate Polluters After Companies Were Fined $52 Million, Analysis Shows

“Our federal government should not be essentially giving back portions of the penalties they’ve paid, but that’s exactly what the Trump administration is doing through the PPP.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10-4-2020

“These companies have a clear history of violating public trust and the law by contaminating the environment in pursuit of profits.” (Photo: isciencetimes.com)

As the American public awaits a new coronavirus aid package and at least one in five small businesses expect to close by the end of 2020 due to economic hardship, government watchdog Accountable.US and the HuffPost revealed Sunday that at least five companies which were previously fined for pollution violations received millions of dollars in loans via the Paycheck Protection Program which was introduced in March.

Fossil fuel companies, a diesel engine parts manufacturer, and a nuclear waste management company were among the corporations which received up to $32 million in loans, after they were forced to collectively pay more than $52 million in penalties, according to the analysis. Continue reading

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Trump Friends and Family Cleared for Millions in Small Business Bailout

Beneficiaries of the PPP included a lettuce farming venture backed by Trump’s son, Kushner companies, and a dentist who golfs with the president. The figures were released after a lawsuit by several news organizations, including ProPublica.

By Jack GillumIsaac ArnsdorfJake Pearson and Mike Spies  Published 7-6-2020 by ProPublica

Businesses tied to President Donald Trump’s family and associates stand to receive as much as $21 million in government loans designed to shore up payroll expenses for companies struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to federal data released Monday.

A hydroponic lettuce farm backed by Trump’s eldest son, Donald Jr., applied for at least $150,000 in Small Business Administration funding. Albert Hazzouri, a dentist frequently spotted at Mar-a-Lago, asked for a similar amount. A hospital run by Maria Ryan, a close associate of Trump lawyer and former mayor Rudy Giuliani, requested more than $5 million. Several companies connected to the president’s son-in-law and White House adviser, Jared Kushner, could get upward of $6 million.

There’s no ban on businesses connected to Trump’s orbit receiving money. Democrats added a provision to the CARES Act excluding government officials and their family members from receiving some bailout funds, but not those from the PPP.

The firms sought funding under the Paycheck Protection Program, one of the Trump administration’s sweeping pandemic relief efforts. Created in late March by the CARES Act, it allowed small businesses — generally, those with fewer than 500 employees — to apply for loans of up to $10 million. The loans can be forgiven if used to cover payroll, rent, mortgage interest or utilities.

The program paid out $521 billion to almost 4.9 million companies in an effort to provide relief for small businesses and their workers amid the sudden economic shock brought on by the pandemic. As applications slowed after the initial rush, $132 billion remained unspent, and Congress voted to extend the program.

After resisting releasing the names, the government bowed to pressure from critics and watchdog groups. On Monday, the administration disclosed only those entities that were approved by banks for loans over $150,000. A consortium of news organizations, including ProPublica, has sued the administration under the Freedom of Information Act to release the full list of recipients and loan details.

The program has been criticized for including some loan recipients, particularly large, publicly traded companies, and for favoring wealthier businesses that had existing relationships with banks. In some cases customers could essentially skip the line. Overall, however, many economists praise the PPP for having gotten billions to companies relatively quickly.

The New York Observer, the news website that Kushner ran before entering the White House and is still owned by his brother-in-law’s investment firm, was approved for between $350,000 and $1 million, data shows. A company called Princeton Forrestal LLC that is at least 40 percent owned by Kushner family members, according to a 2018 securities filing, was approved for $1 million to $2 million. Esplanade Livingston LLC, whose address is the same as that of the Kushner Companies real estate development business, was approved for $350,000 to $1 million. The company’s Chief Operating Officer, Peter Febo, responded, “Several of our hotels have applied for federal loans, in accordance with all guidelines, with a vast majority of funds going to furloughed employees.” The loans to Kushner-related companies were first reported by The Daily Beast.

In addition, up to $2 million was approved for the Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy, a nonprofit religious school in Livingston, N.J., that’s named for Jared Kushner’s grandfather and supported by the family.

In April, a bank approved a loan of between $150,000 and $350,000 for the Pennsylvania dental practice of Albert Hazzouri, who golfs with Trump and frequents Mar-a-Lago, the president’s private club in Palm Beach, Florida. In 2017, Hazzouri used his access to the president to pass him a policy proposal on club stationery on behalf of the American Dental Association. He addressed the note to Trump “Dear King.”

Hazzouri also leaned on his relationship with Trump in an unsuccessful bid to obtain a dentistry license to expand his business in Florida. Hazzouri didn’t immediately return calls seeking comment Monday.

Firms tied to the president’s children also stand to benefit from the program. A small indoor lettuce farming business applied for funds between $150,000 and $350,000, SBA data show. Trump Jr. had invested in Eden Green Technology, a vertical farming company just south of Dallas, whose co-chair, Gentry Beach, was a Trump campaign fundraiser.

Trump Jr. purchased his shares as Beach sought Trump administration funding for his other global business interests, ProPublica first reported in December 2018.

The company has said Trump Jr. played no role in running Eden Green and was brought in during “U.S. friends and family fundraising efforts.” A spokesman, Trevor Moore, said that the company “followed the standard procedure” in applying for the PPP loan and that “receiving it has provided for the preservation of 18 jobs.” It’s not clear how much Trump Jr. invested or whether he’s been paid any dividends since purchasing his shares. Neither Trump Jr. nor a spokesman returned a message seeking comment.

Monday’s list included a Manhattan law firm whose marquee attorney has fiercely defended Trump for almost two decades. Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP — whose managing partner, Marc Kasowitz, was at one point the president’s top lawyer in the special counsel’s Russia investigation — was set to receive between $5 million and $10 million from Citibank, data show. (The largest loan a company could seek was $10 million.)

Once dubbed the “Donald Trump of lawyering” by The New York Times, Kasowitz represented Trump in the Trump University fraud lawsuit. and during the 2016 campaign he helped keep Trump’s 1990 divorce from being unsealed. ProPublica reported three years ago that Kasowitz bragged to friends that he made between $10 million and $30 million per year.

A law firm spokeswoman said its employees have maintained their full salary and benefits thanks to the PPP loan and “substantial cost-saving measures and greatly reduced partner distributions.” The firm has about 400 employees, data show. She said neither Kasowitz nor the firm had any conversations with anyone in the administration about the loan. Other major law firms, such as Boies Schiller Flexner and Wiley Rein, also received loans.

The loans helped a hospital executive tightly linked to another Trump attorney and confidant, Rudy Giuliani. Cottage Hospital, a 25-bed critical access facility in Woodsville, New Hampshire, received between $2 million and $5 million in PPP loans. The hospital’s CEO, Maria Ryan, is a longtime close associate of Giuliani’s.

During the last few years, Ryan has accompanied Giuliani on trips to Jerusalem, where the two visited the Hadassah Medical Organization, and to London, where they attended a two-game series between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. Last September, Giuliani brought Ryan to a state dinner at the White House.

Ryan currently co-hosts a talk radio show with Giuliani called “Uncovering the Truth.” She has referred to Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, as her “business partner.” Cottage Hospital’s annual revenues typically exceed $30 million, according to its most recent publicly available federal tax return. Ryan’s salary, the last filing shows, is nearly $300,000.

“Mr. Giuliani has nothing to do with the PPP loan,” Ryan wrote in an email to ProPublica. “We applied like any other small business through our bank.”

The loan data released Monday does not reveal the $30 billion in loans that have been canceled. Nor does it provide specific dollar amounts, but instead ranges of loan amounts. Businesses that spend the money according to key provisions of the program, which mainly involve continuing to pay workers, will have the loans forgiven.

Last week, Trump signed legislation to extend the program until early August.

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.

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