Shake Shack CEO explains why company returned $10m PPP money

Trump Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany's parents received $1-$2m in PPP loans for company, despite having more than 100 employees

‘The vast majority, as I noted,  were companies with 10 or fewer employees’

Graig Graziosi
Thursday 09 July 2020 22:40
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The parents of White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany received between $1 to $2m in Paycheck Protection Programme money for their roofing company, according to Small Business Association data.

Though the PPP loans were intended to help very small businesses – generally those with 10 or fewer employees – businesses such as those of Ms McEnany’s parents, which appears to employ 131 people, have also received the money.

The Daily Dot reported that Ms McEnany’s parents were recipients of the loan money.

Ms McEnany has criticised recipients of public funding in the past, claiming in 2018 “it was exactly right that welfare recipients should feel enough shame to motivate themselves off of government assistance”.

It was Ms McEnany who suggested the loans were meant for very small businesses, during an interview earlier this year on Fox News.

“The vast majority, as I noted, 1 million of the 1.6 million loans that went out, were companies with 10 or fewer employees. That is what this program is designed to do, that is who it is helping,” she said.

Her parents’s business appears to be one of the outliers.

The PPP was created as part of the CARES act that Congress passed in order to help the public and businesses survive the economic shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Members of Congress, billionaires and family members of executive branch officials – like Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao’s family – also received money through the loan.

The loans will be forgiven by the government so long as the money is used for employee paychecks, rent or utilities for their businesses.

Despite the ostensible intentions of the PPP, the programme’s lack of transparency has drawn criticism from government watchdogs and reporters.

Treasure secretary Steve Mnuchin told the Senate in June that the administration would never reveal which companies received money, and Ms McEnany brushed off complaints from reporters about the lack of transparency.

“We’re concerned with getting money to people right now. I mean look, we’re not concerned with cobbling a list together to please the media,” she said.

It is the basic function of government agencies to compile lists of recipients of federal funds, and reporters request that information as a watchdog function to ensure the federal government is using taxpayer funds in ethical ways.

Earlier this year, the chairman of Shake Shack, a large national fast-casual dining chain, returned the company’s $10m in PPP funding after receiving capital from a different source. In an open letter published by the company’s chairman Danny Meyer and CEO Randy Garutti, they described how the PPP application process was broad enough to allow large corporations like theirs to access the money intended for much smaller businesses.

He described the application process as having “no user manual” and being “extremely confusing”.

A recent lawsuit claims that the CEO of The Starboard Group, a Wendy’s franchisee that owns 100 stores spent $1m of their PPP money on a newly purchased home in Montana.

“That doesn’t seem right to us,” Mr Garutti said in a CNN interview about his letter. “As we watched this opportunity play out over the weeks, it was very clear that the programme was underfunded and wasn’t set up for everyone to win.”

The $338bn in loans that made up the PPP funding were depleted in early April.

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