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PPP loans helped out congressional spouses’ workplaces

Firms where spouses of Martha Roby, Todd Young work received funds

The law firm where Alabama Rep. Martha Roby's husband works got millions in PPP money.
The law firm where Alabama Rep. Martha Roby's husband works got millions in PPP money. (CQ Roll Call)

The Paycheck Protection Program isn’t accepting loan applications anymore, but the extent to which members of Congress and their families benefited from it continues to roll in.

The law firm where Rep. Martha Roby’s husband works — and engages in a 401(k) profit sharing plan at the firm worth up to $1.8 million — received a Paycheck Protection Program loan between $5-$10 million, a CQ Roll Call examination found.

Balch & Bingham LLP, a law firm in Birmingham, Ala., received millions from the federal government and saved 381 jobs, according to data from the Small Business Administration. Riley W. Roby is a partner based in the firm’s Montgomery office where he focuses on corporate law and matters involving public policy. The loan — issued by BBVA USA — was approved on April 5.

Martha Roby, an Alabama Republican, was first elected to the House in 2010 and is not running for re-election.

Conflict of interest prohibitions do not apply to the Paycheck Protection Program, a component of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. As such, members of Congress and their families are allowed to get Paycheck Protection Program relief, an effort they helped pass into law.

“Thus, Members or businesses in which Members or certain individuals in their immediate family have an ownership interest may be able to apply for assistance under other parts of the CARES Act, such as the Paycheck Protection Program,” the House Ethics Committee said in April.

The Paycheck Protection Program, which closed Aug. 8 and is no longer accepting applications, was established early on during the coronavirus pandemic to help businesses keep their workers employed during a time of dire financial strain. Companies don’t have to pay the loan back if they use the vast majority on payroll. The program applies to companies with 500 or fewer employees with some exceptions. It is also intended to help businesses pay interest on mortgages, rent and utilities. FiscalNote, parent company of CQ Roll Call, has received a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program.

Representatives for Roby did not respond to a request for comment. Neither Riley Roby nor his law firm responded to a request for comment.

“This is the kind of thing that is concerning when you’re talking about a program that is designed to get money out the door as fast as possible,” said Jennifer Ahearn, policy director at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). “These are the kinds of things that are likely to come up, particularly where you have a program where a lot of the decision making about who is going to get the money has been in some sense outsourced to your local bank or to a series of banks. Those are the kinds of situations where you want to keep an eye out for potential influence.”

In June, Roby who co-sponsored the CARES Act, explained in a statement on her House website how the PPP has benefited her constituents, but didn’t mention that her husband’s law firm was a beneficiary of the program:

“Alabama small businesses have received a great amount of support through the PPP,” Roby wrote. “As of June 6, there have been 61,576 approved loans totaling approximately $6,122,930,463 for businesses throughout the state.”

Meanwhile, a company where Sen. Todd Young’s wife works also received federal assistance from the program.

Bloomington Shuttle Service Inc., a company that paid Jennifer Young a salary in 2019, got a PPP loan from $350,000 to $1 million. The loan retained 150 jobs, according to Small Business Administration data. The loan from German American Bank was approved on April 13. Jay Kenworthy, a spokesman for Young, noted that Jennifer works part-time for Bloomington Shuttle. Further, he said the Indiana Republican didn’t know the company received a PPP loan until CQ Roll Call’s inquiry.

“More than 83,000 Hoosier businesses received PPP loans, which were awarded through local lending institutions based on a formula decided by the SBA,” Kenworthy said in an email. “Senator Young was proud to support PPP, which passed the Senate unanimously, because it has saved more than 50 million jobs.”

Bloomington Shuttle did not respond to a request for comment.

Other members have interests in companies that have gotten money from the Paycheck Protection Program.

Financial disclosure documents in Congress are not easily searchable and there may be other members who have, in some way, benefited from the government loans.

“There likely are several other cases of family and friends of public officials receiving bailout funds. However, the general lack of disclosure of most recipients of PPP funds prevents the public from knowing all the lawmakers who benefited from their legislative actions,” said Craig Holman of Public Citizen.

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