West Virginia governor’s businesses secure millions in coronavirus loans

The family businesses of West Virginia billionaire Jim Justice have received at least $ 11.1 million in a federal bailout to keep small businesses afloat during the coronavirus pandemic, according to data released Monday by the department of the Treasury.

Justice, a Republican, is considered the richest man in West Virginia thanks to the ownership of dozens of coal and farming companies, many of which have been sued for unpaid debts.

At least six entities in the Justice family have received paycheck protection program loans, including four energy companies, the lavish governor’s complex The Greenbrier, as well as The Greenbrier Sporting Club, an exclusive club for property owners. in the complex, according to the data. The companies have been listed as raising between $ 11.15 million and $ 24.35 million because the federal government disclosed the dollar figures as ranges, not specific amounts.

The aid program is the centerpiece of the federal government’s plan to save an economy devastated by closures and uncertainty, data released Monday presenting the program’s most comprehensive toll to date.

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Justice admitted last week that his private companies had received money from the program, but said he did not know the exact dollar amounts. A representative of the governor’s family businesses did not immediately return an email seeking comment. At a press conference on Monday, Justice again said he was unsure of the dollar amount, but added that he had pushed companies to take advantage of any federal virus-fighting program.

“I have encouraged all businesses in our state to try and research whatever they could possibly ask of the federal government in regards to loans,” Justice said, adding that about $ 2 billion has gone into the lending process. State of the federal package.

The governor said he wanted to put his assets in a blind trust soon after his election, but did not. He maintains that his children control the family business empire. Yet justice has been criticized throughout his tenure as governor from those who argue that he is too focused on his private businesses to perform his government duties. The governor has repeatedly rejected such claims.

Justice bought the Greenbrier complex from bankruptcy in 2009. Nestled in the Allegheny Mountains in southeast West Virginia, the Greenbrier bills itself as America’s complex and once served as a secret bunker for the Cold War era for federal congestion. Today, the National Historic Landmark has over 700 rooms and has hosted a PGA Tour stop. It has temporarily closed due to the pandemic.

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The complex came under intense scrutiny by federal prosecutors last year, when lawyers from a state corruption unit sent three subpoenas to the administration of justice to request documents related to the Greenbrier, the PGA tournament, the nonprofit financial arm of the tournament, and the justice tax records. The governor’s personal legal team told reporters at a press conference in January that the investigation was concluded without any wrongdoing.

Last year another family business from Justice, North Carolina Justice Farms, received $ 125,000 in subsidies for soybeans and corn, the maximum allowed in a separate federal program intended to help American farmers weather the trade war between the United States and China. The payments, made public through documents provided to The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act, highlighted the sometimes strained relationship between the billionaire’s businesses and his role as chief executive.

Justice won office in 2016 as a Democrat, but announced after less than a year as governor that he was changing his party affiliation to a Republican in a rally with President Donald Trump.

As part of the Paycheck Protection Program, the government is supporting $ 659 billion in low-interest loans taken out by banks. Taxpayer money will repay loans if borrowers use them for payroll, rent, and similar expenses. Companies generally must have fewer than 500 workers to be eligible.

Demand was so high that a first injection of $ 349 billion ran out in just two weeks. Many Main Street businesses couldn’t navigate the application process quickly enough for one of these early loans before the funding dried up. Meanwhile, several hundred publicly traded companies – barely the image of a small business – have received loans of up to $ 10 million each, sparking a public backlash and leading dozens to repay the loan. ‘silver.

Congress added $ 310 billion to the program, but confusing, shifting, and sometimes restrictive rules dampened interest. About $ 140 billion has not been claimed by the end of the June 30 application deadline. With funds still available, Congress voted to extend the program just as it expires, setting a new date for August 8.

The public may never know the identity of more than 80% of the nearly 5 million beneficiaries to date, as the administration has refused to disclose details of loans under $ 150,000 – the vast majority of borrowers . This secrecy sparked legal action by a group of news agencies, including the Associated Press.

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