By Greg Bishop
(The Center Square) – New data released by the Small Business Administration shows taxpayers gave more than 200,000 Illinois businesses a total of more than $22 billion in COVID-19 relief funds.
More than 27,400 businesses got at least $150,000 through the federal Paycheck Protection Program.
The loans were turned into grants if most of the money was used to retain employees. The SBA documents suggest more than 2.1 million jobs were retained in Illinois. OpenTheBooks.com founder Adam Andrzejewski said taxpayers are stuck with the bill. His website has a map that breaks down the businesses that got more than $1 million.
“It means a big debt that we’re going to be paying off for generations,” Andrzejewski said. “Our children and children's children are going to paying off this coronavirus bailout to many businesses who actually didn’t need the money but saw an opportunity to stick their hand in the honey pot and the folks that get stuck at the end of the day is the American taxpayer.”
There were 4.8 million loans approved across the country for more than $520 billion. The average loan size was $106,000. The federal government said it helped support more than 51 million jobs across the country. Most of the money went to health care and social assistance, professional, scientific and technical services, construction, manufacturing and accommodation and food service businesses.
In Illinois, there were more than 202,000 businesses that were listed in documents released this week. Businesses that got less than $150,000 were kept mostly anonymous, though some location information was available. Other documents from the SBA program across the country named the businesses that got more than $150,000.
The latest aggregate report from June 27 showed Illinois businesses shared in $22.4 billion.
Among the Illinois companies that got between $5 million and $10 million were considered essential, like construction companies. Other companies that got approved for millions were car dealers, industry associations and around 27,000 other businesses.
Andrzejewski said it made sense for some businesses to get help during the pandemic.
“Restaurants probably have the most compelling argument to accept the money because they were literally shut down by edict and they had payroll to make,” Andrzejewski said.
He said it’s morally wrong for businesses such as luxury car dealerships to take taxpayer funds they didn’t need.
Illinois Chamber of Commerce CEO Todd Maisch said he understands the criticism.
“Any time government tries to send trillions of dollars out the door in a very, very short period of time you’re going to have decisions that are questioned and probably should be questioned,” Maisch said.
Maisch said every business should be able to justify accessing such funds to keep people employed.
“Because that was the goal,” Maisch said. “There wasn’t a whole lot of discussion of about ‘well, if you worked for a car dealership or you worked for a manufacturer,’ it was ‘are you employed or not and are you going to stay employed.’”
SBA documents said more than 2.1 million jobs were retained in Illinois because of the loans.