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E&E News led with a story yesterday about the numerous environmental groups that received government support under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) even as they were suing the government over policies they believed the Trump administration got wrong. The story noted that the loans to environmental groups “represent a tiny fraction of the $660 billion that has gone to 4.9 million businesses through the paycheck program that Congress created….” On Tuesday, Climate Power 2020 looked at the PPP and it put out a statement about its findings that “[m]ore than 200 fossil fuel companies received between $116.4 million and $272 million in Paycheck Protection Plan loans while reporting that they retained zero employees with the COVID-19 emergency relief funds…” — oil and gas companies reaped $8B in total.
Why This Matters: The E&E story seems to imply that environmental groups should not be suing the Trump administration — they sought comments from numerous groups asking why they were taking the money while continuing to file lawsuits. Meanwhile, the oil and gas companies took much more from the fund and did not retain their employees, which totally frustrates the purpose of the PPP and appears to waste taxpayer dollars. Recipients of PPP funds should not have to bow to politics, but they should be held accountable for waste and fraud.
What The Groups Said About Their PPP Loans
Thomas Frank of E&E News wrote that the “environmental groups that took federal money were small to midsize nonprofits with annual budgets ranging from a few million dollars to about $50 million.” He asked Jamie Clark, the CEO of Defenders of Wildlife about the organization’s PPP loan, after pointing out that they had sued the Trump Administration on May 12 about the environmental issues with the Border Wall, and nine days later took a PPP loan of between $2m and $5m. She said in a statement “We feel no obligation to the Trump administration because we obtained a loan through a program authorized by Congress to help employers retain their staff,” and continued, “Anyone who knows Defenders knows we would never pull our punches in fighting the Trump administration’s damaging and misguided policies for wildlife and public lands.” Another organization, Friends of the Earth, told E&E News it took a loan worth $1 million to $2 million to “secure staff salaries during the COVID pandemic so that we can continue to hold the Trump administration accountable for its attacks on the environment, or Democrats accountable for not boldly leading on environmental issues.”
Oil and Gas PPP Loans
According to Climate Power 2020, 4,800 fossil fuel companies received between $2.5 billion and $6 billion in Paycheck Protection Plan loans, according to data released by the Trump administration. More than 400 fossil fuel companies received at least $2 million in loans. Worse yet, 212 companies reported to the government that they retained zero employees with the funds. The same was true with CARES Act funds. Climate Power 2020 argues that when it comes to COVID assistance, President Trump has prioritized helping the fossil fuel industry; including, more than $2 billion in additional taxpayer-funded bailouts going to 40 big oil and gas companies through the CARES Act. Thus, between PPP and CARES Act funds, the total of known oil and gas handouts was more than $8 billion. “It’s clear where President Trump’s priorities lie, and it’s not with working Americans,” said Lori Lodes, Executive Director of Climate Power 2020. “The billions of dollars in taxpayer money handed out to fossil fuel companies during this pandemic, some of which reported zero employees retained, raises serious questions that the Trump administration must answer.”
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