By James Pierson and Adam Andrzejewski
When COVID-19 began to infect Americans in early 2020, Congress appropriated $787 billion under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to allow businesses and nonprofits to pay employees when they were forced to close. These payments were made in the form of low-interest loans that would be forgiven if the funds were spent on salaries, wages, and related expenses. PPP's purpose was to maintain payrolls and incomes while the country fought through the early months of the virus.
A recent study from OpenTheBooks, an organization devoted to transparency in government spending, reports that more than 95% of these loans were forgiven, and many were sent out to wealthy organizations, including top law and accounting firms, country clubs, and even family offices that were facing little financial concern.
OpenTheBooks reports that $1.4 billion in forgiven PPP loans went to some of the largest law and accounting firms in the country. Nearly half of the largest 300 law firms in the United States took payments from the program, as did three-quarters of the largest accounting firms. Overall, some 25,000 law and accounting firms received $13 billion in PPP loans. While those firms may have qualified for the payments, it is questionable whether they really needed them.