SEATTLE, Wash. — During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic many people lost their businesses, while others leaned on the government for hundreds of billions in cash to stay afloat as the economy was shut down.
Two and a half year later, we’ve learned that more than 600 businesses in Seattle received Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) forgiveness loans, costing taxpayers more than a billion dollars.
None of the businesses did anything wrong, it's just the process of the loan that's being looked at.
According to data from the U.S. Small Business Administration, 612 Seattle businesses took out PPP loans ranging from $1 million to $10 million that they don't have to pay back.
When the pandemic hit, the economic shut down followed shortly after as businesses across the country were hit with operating restrictions.
Congress created the $700 billion Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) in an effort to compensate employers so they could in turn keep their employees on the payroll.
Thousands of businesses took advantage of the loans, including hundreds in Seattle.
“So we can debate the merits of Congress' COVID aid programs, but here's what we can all agree on, every dime of this COVID aid was borrowed against the national debt, which now just exceeded $31 trillion, so we're gonna be paying all of this back for generations,” said Adam Andrzejewski, who runs openthebooks.com.
He crunched the data for the Seattle area and found a total of $1.3 billion in forgiven, large federal loans, were given out.
“I think people will feel that it's shocking, that the system was gamed by people who may or may not have had a real need and a real plan to millions of dollars worth of COVID aid,” said Andrzejewski.
Take Seattle Goodwill Industries for example, which now operates under the name Evergreen Goodwill of Northwest Washington. One of the largest single loans received of $10 million, all forgiven.
Evergreen Goodwill told KOMO News in a statement, "In March of 2020, our 24 retail stores and 30 donation centers shuttered. For four months, our sales dropped to zero, and our main source of funding for our mission, came to a halt. The loan allowed us to continue to help people secure life-changing jobs and support the economic prosperity of Northwest Washington communities during a very difficult time."
Then there's the Seattle Times and subsidiaries: two loans totaling $11.8 million in 2020 and 2021, both forgiven.
“The Seattle Times needs to justify their $11.8 million subsidy. Why did they really need it and why? How can you be an independent journalist if you're subsidized by government? So on the editorial page of the Seattle Times, they need to answer these questions,” said Andrzejewski.
Meantime, over $100 million in forgiven PPP loans was doled out to Seattle law firms.
One of the largest in the country, Lane Powell PC, received a forgiven loan of $8.4 million.
In a statement, Lane Powell told KOMO News, "It enabled us to maintain our workforce through a time when it was difficult or impossible for many of our employees to perform their duties as they had before the pandemic."
According to the openthebooks.com, this is a company with an estimated annual revenue of $94 million.
We reached out to the Seattle Times, as we did with Goodwill and Lane Powell PC, but never heard back.
Andrzejewski said knowing what we know now, he feels Congress needs to authorize strong forensic audits on every PPP loan greater than a million dollars.