17:45 GMT04 August 2020
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    When the US government unleashed a $500-plus-billion programme to help small businesses sit out the COVID-19 pandemic, the obvious image was local mom-and-pop stores. However, government disclosures show it has also benefited firms and individuals worth billions of dollars.

    PPP, the forgivable loan programme credited with returning millions of Americans to jobs this spring, has had some surprise beneficiaries including Kanye West and Wall Street investors, as well as lobbyists and law firms.

    According to data from the programme, released by the US Treasury on Monday, West’s Yeezy clothing company secured a loan of between $2 million and $5 million (figures show only the ranges for approved loans). Yeezy, which was valued at almost $3 billion last year, said it was able to retain 106 jobs thanks to the loan.

    Also in the $2 million-$5 million range were luxury fashion retailers Oscar de la Renta and Vera Wang, as well as suit manufacturer Hickey Freeman. The Burning Man festival received an undisclosed amount in the same price range.

    Jeff Koons, a postmodernist pop artist, received between $1 million and $2 million for his studio, which employed 53 people before the pandemic, according to the filings. Koons’ 1986 “Rabbit” sculpture blast year sold for $91.1 million, setting an auction record for a living artist.

    The US administration gave a nod for between $5 million and $10 million to several big law firms like Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, which has represented Donald Trump and Condé Nast, and Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, which worked with disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

    A similar amount has been approved for Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC, the alma mater of Barack Obama’s daughters, and the elite Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn, which charges more than $50,000 a year in tuition. A loan of between $350,000 and $1 million went to EDI Associates, a consulting firm linked to the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

    Among the tech firms that benefited from this largesse were e-commerce startup Enjoy ($5 million to $10 million to retain 500 jobs), catering start-up Eat Club ($5 million and $10 million for 500 jobs), the donor-advised Silicon Valley Community Foundation ($2 million to $5 million), and venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz ($350,000 to $1 million for 24 jobs).

    As many as 583 asset management and private equity firms, such as Rosenblatt Securities, were approved for a loan from the PPP. They supported a total of nearly 14,800 jobs combined through the money, or around 25 employees per company.

    Some of the biggest news organisations to have received the cash were New York Public Radio, Forbes Media, Times Holding Company, and Wikimedia Foundation (all got between $5 million and $10 million); Newsmax Media, News Media Corporation, and Fortune Media Group ($2 million to $5 million).

    Jim Justice, the Republican governor of West Virginia and the state’s wealthiest person, received at least $6.3 from the programme, government data shows.

    Federal officials said that PPP loans, which totalled around $521 billion, supported 51 million jobs nationwide and over 80 percent of all small-business employees. Despite loans above $150,000 making up nearly three-fours of the total sum approved, the average loan size is around $100,000.

    The Small Business Administration has published only the names of those companies which secured more than $150,000 in loans, and several news organisations are suing to have the government reveal all names.


    coronavirus, COVID-19, United States, United States Treasury, Burning Man, Kanye West
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