Covid Relief Funds and Loans: Where Has The Money Gone?

Congress has allocated trillions of dollars in direct assistance and loans to support the American people during the Covid-19 pandemic. Billions have gone to companies with histories of misconduct, to businesses that have continued laying off workers even as they rake in taxpayer dollars, and even to those connected to the president or his family. American Oversight is investigating the distribution of these relief funds.

In March 2020, Congress passed the CARES Act, which appropriated $2 trillion in loans and grants to support government agencies, businesses, and individuals. But misallocation of funds and uneven assistance has raised concerns about who is — and isn’t — receiving this money. 

A Washington Post investigation revealed in September that most of the $1 billion that Congress gave the Defense Department to build up the country’s medical supplies was actually used to buy military equipment, with millions redirected to shipbuilding giants, aircraft parts manufacturers, and uniform companies. Ten of these defense contractors also double-dipped in CARES Act funding, receiving Paycheck Protection Program loans in addition to Defense Department grants. 

Also included in the CARES Act was the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which was designed to support small businesses with direct cash flow assistance. But the program’s flaws made it difficult for the vast majority of Black-owned businesses to qualify, with surveys showing that only 12 percent of Black- and Latino-owned businesses that applied for aid through the Small Business Administration received the aid they asked for. On the other hand, companies connected to former President Donald Trump’s family, business partners, and political donors have received millions in loans. Large companies have also received PPP loans intended for small businesses. 

In one investigation, the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis found more than 10,000 loans in which the borrower received more than one loan — totaling more than $1 billion — even though the CARES Act prohibited companies from receiving multiple loans. The investigation also revealed that nearly 1,000 loans went to companies that were either suspended from working with the government or had previously been flagged for performance or integrity issues. 

Corporate watchdog group Good Jobs First found that 43,000 CARES Act aid recipients had been involved in corporate misconduct during the past decade. Past violations included Medicare and Medicaid billing fraud, violating overtime and minimum wage regulations, safety violations, and employment discrimination. These companies received $57 billion in grants and $91 billion in loans through the CARES Act.

Meanwhile, the SBA and the Treasury Department have criticism for potentially not properly vetting aid recipients. In July 2020, SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza claimed that her agency was “doing all it can to reduce the risk of fraud on the loan side.” But in August, after providing more than $160 billion in Economic Injury Disaster Loans, the SBA was reportedly scrambling to enact key anti-fraud controls. Internal emails also showed that many loan officers were untrained and had been approving loans to applicants who should not have received them. 

The CARES Act also allocated funding to the Federal Reserve to establish lending institutions to support businesses and state governments. According to the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, almost half of the 500 large companies whose bonds the Federal Reserve bought have been accused of illegal conduct in the last three years. And 140 of these companies collectively laid off more than 1 million workers since March, 95 of which paid dividends to their shareholders while letting workers go.

American Oversight is investigating the distribution of these relief funds. We’ve filed requests with the SBA, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Department of Health and Human Services seeking information about how relief packages are being implemented. We’ve also filed requests with multiple agencies, including the Treasury Department, for communications with the White House and Congress related to emergency relief funding. And we’re investigating the banking industry’s influence by seeking records of meetings between Wall Street executives and relevant administration officials. 

Updates

Covid-19 Oversight News: Increasing Case Numbers, Updated CDC Guidance, and the Pandemic in Prisons

April 5, 2021
For the latest news on the pandemic, as well as updates on various oversight investigations, sign up for our weekly Covid-19 Oversight News email.

New Reports from Public Citizen Spotlight Problems in Fed’s Main Street Lending Program

March 31, 2021
March 27 marked one year since the passage of the CARES Act.

Covid-19 Oversight News: Reviewing Pandemic Relief Programs and the Vaccine vs. Variant Race

March 29, 2021
For the latest news on the pandemic, as well as updates on various oversight investigations, sign up for our weekly Covid-19 Oversight News email.

Yellen, Powell Testify About Covid-19 Stimulus, CARES Act on Capitol Hill

March 25, 2021
The hearings marked the first time Yellen, the former Fed chair, testified as Treasury secretary.

One Year of the Coronavirus Pandemic: The Federal Response

March 24, 2021
From the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic last year, a stumbling federal response exacerbated a once-in-a-lifetime public health crisis.

Covid-19 Oversight News: Vaccines in Prisons, the Pandemic in Florida, and Oversight in Congress

March 22, 2021
For the latest news on the pandemic, as well as updates on various oversight investigations, sign up for our weekly Covid-19 Oversight News email.

Covid-19 Oversight News: Congressional Investigations, Vaccine Distribution, and New Revelations about Misused Pandemic Funds

March 8, 2021
For the latest news on the pandemic, as well as updates on various oversight investigations, sign up for our weekly Covid-19 Oversight News email.

One Year of Covid-19 Oversight

March 3, 2021
A timeline of the pandemic’s first 12 months and our efforts to hold government officials accountable for their handling of the historic public health crisis.

Covid-19 Oversight News: Updated CDC Guidance, Early Emails About Masks, and New Congressional Requests

February 15, 2021
For the latest news on the pandemic, as well as updates on various oversight investigations, sign up for our weekly Covid-19 Oversight News email.

Covid-19 Oversight News: Vaccine Inequity, Super Bowl Parties, and CARES Act Oversight

February 8, 2021
For the latest news on the pandemic, as well as updates on various oversight investigations, sign up for our weekly Covid-19 Oversight News email.

Where Did the Money Go? A Summary of Findings from CARES Act Investigations

February 4, 2021
Numerous reports from watchdogs, Congress, and news outlets have exposed serious issues with how relief funding from the 2020 CARES Act was spent. Here’s a list.

Covid-19 Oversight News: State Setbacks, Vaccine Distribution Challenges, and CARES Act Confusion

February 1, 2021
For the latest news on the pandemic, as well as updates on various oversight investigations, sign up for our weekly Covid-19 Oversight News email.

Covid-19 Oversight News: Ongoing Vaccine Distribution Problems and the Trump Administration’s Last Week

January 19, 2021
For the latest news on the pandemic, as well as updates on various oversight investigations, sign up for our weekly Covid-19 Oversight News email.

Covid-19 Oversight News: Covid-19 at the Capitol and Vaccine Confusion in the States

January 11, 2021
For the latest news on the pandemic, as well as updates on various oversight investigations, sign up for our weekly Covid-19 Oversight News email.

Covid-19 Oversight News: Vaccine Distribution, State-by-State Discrepancies, and the Worsening Crisis

December 7, 2020
For the latest news on the pandemic, as well as updates on various oversight investigations, sign up for our weekly Covid-19 Oversight News email.

Mnuchin, Powell Appear on Capitol Hill to Discuss Lending Programs

December 2, 2020

In the Documents: Federal and Local Governments’ Communications from Early Months of Pandemic Show Confusion, Frustration

December 2, 2020
Here’s a summary of coronavirus-related records that American Oversight has published in the last month.

Investigations Update: Pompeo’s RNC Speech, DeJoy’s Calendars, and Kentucky’s Voter Fraud Task Force

September 9, 2020
See the latest in our investigations into the administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, Pompeo’s unprecedented convention appearance, the cost of Chad Wolf’s July trip to Portland, and more.

Investigations Update: Attorney General Barr’s Conduct, Airline Industry Influence, and Trump’s Suggestion to Postpone the Election

August 25, 2020
See the latest in our investigations into William Barr’s politicization of the Justice Department and industry’s influence over pandemic relief fund allocation.

Investigations Update: Postal Service Sabotage, Covid-19 Operation Warp Speed, and Portland Protest Deployment Costs

August 18, 2020
See the latest in our investigations of the Trump administration's attacks on the U.S. Postal Service, the struggling federal response to the coronavirus pandemic, and the taxpayer resources used to deploy federal agents to suppress racial justice protests in Portland.

Investigations Update: ‘Burrowing In,’ Voter Fraud Task Forces, and Federal Law Enforcement

July 28, 2020
Our latest investigations into political appointees moving to permanent positions, the designation of "antifa" as a terrorist group, and state-level voter fraud task forces.

Investigations Update: Mike Pompeo’s Abuses of Office, Trump’s Loyalty Purges, and Caring for Uninsured Covid-19 Patients

July 8, 2020
From voting rights to the pandemic, here's a look at our new investigations from the past week.

American Oversight Sues Treasury for Records Related to Coronavirus Stimulus

July 1, 2020
The pandemic has created an unprecedented opportunity for kickbacks and cronyism in the disbursement of relief funds. We’re investigating.

News Roundup: The Administration’s Failure to Confront Two National Crises

June 19, 2020
The Trump administration's responses to the deadly coronavirus pandemic and to nationwide protests against systemic racism in law enforcement have been both harmful and insufficient.

News Roundup: One Firing, Multiple Scandals

May 22, 2020
Trump's firing of the State Department's inspector general has unearthed a series of concerning stories about the conduct of the very person who pressed for the firing — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

News Roundup: Who Will Watch the Inspectors General?

May 8, 2020
Every week seems to bring a new example of President Donald Trump’s disdain — or fear — of independent oversight.

News Roundup: Protecting the Right to Vote During a Pandemic

May 1, 2020
Like many things in today’s politics, mail-in voting has become a political flashpoint as the November election gets closer.

News Roundup: Miracle Drugs and Trump’s Alternate Reality

April 24, 2020
Trump has seemingly failed to learn that no amount of political spin can minimize his administration’s mismanaged pandemic response.

News Roundup: Who Stands to Gain?

April 17, 2020
As the administration’s tragically mismanaged response to the coronavirus continues to lurch onward, the answers to that question are more important than ever.

News Roundup: Continuing Our Investigation of Coronavirus Response

March 13, 2020
As we all take steps to mitigate the severity of the outbreak, American Oversight is continuing to investigate the Trump administration’s troublingly inadequate response to the crisis.
Show all updates

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May 6, 2020

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