60 Days Later: Who Has the CARES Act Actually Helped?

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On the Two-Month Anniversary of Trump Signing the CARES Act into Law, American Taxpayers Are Still in the Dark About Which Companies Received Aid While the Well-Connected Have Cashed in

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Q1 2020 hedge fund letters, conferences and more

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Two months ago today, President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the CARES Act). The implementation of the law by the Trump administration has been marred by mismanagement, abuse, self-dealing and more.

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“Sixty days after signing the CARES Act, Trump’s failure to adequately and swiftly address the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic crisis has been staggering,” said Jenna Kruse, spokesperson for Accountable.US. “While the administration has fast-tracked aid for corporations, the wealthy, and well-connected, small businesses and American workers have been left to fend for themselves. The administration’s inability to provide appropriate oversight for billions of taxpayer dollars doled out through CARES Act programs is a failure of historic magnitude.”

Here are just a few of the Trump administration’s CARES Act failures:

Paycheck Protection Program:

Funding Has Gone to the Wealthy and Well- Connected While Leaving Small Businesses Behind

The Paycheck Protection Program was supposed to keep small businesses afloat and their staff on payroll, but it quickly became rife with abuse. Plagued by botched rollouts for round one and round two of the loans, small businesses and especially businesses for underserved populations have been left in the dust as large companies, even those with a history of wrongdoing, reaped the rewards. Even the oil and gas industry got in on the funding — by late April, more than a third of oil and gas corporations had received federal stimulus money. Most egregiously, allies of the president and his administration have been on the receiving end of sweetheart deals including nearly $27 million in grant money to a private jet company founded by a wealthy Trump donor; over $4 million to a billionaire Trump donor and head of an electric truck startup; and a significant loan to the hotel chain of a former Trump administration official from the Small Business Administration’s program meant for mom-and-pops just trying to make payroll.

What we’d still like to know…

  • Will SBA release a list of PPP loan recipients and how much money they were given?
  • Why were private jet charter companies a priority for financial assistance from the Treasury?
  • Why were large hotel and restaurant chains included in a program meant for small, main street businesses?
  • Why did this administration prioritize big oil bailouts, while most mom-and-pop businesses were behind?

Aid To States:

A Lack of Federal Leadership and Direction Left States Struggling Without Proper Guidance on Reporting How Aid Money Is To Be Spent

Included in the coronavirus crisis aid packages was funding allocated to the states to help them respond to the historic shutdown of business and fight the outbreak itself. However, aid from the CARES Act was not proportionally allocated to those hardest hit by the pandemic. And while Trump’s allies argued for states to file for bankruptcy during CARES Act deliberations and President Trump was claiming two months ago that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin “is going to work very hard on getting the money out quickly,” a Congressional Oversight Commission report released last week showed that none of the funding available in the Municipal Liquidity Facility had been distributed. Even the guidance coming from the Department of Education for disbursing aid for students from the CARES Act has been called “confusing or vague” and “inconsistent.” A lack of quick, clear, decisive action by the administration has sown confusion during the worst financial crisis the world has seen in nearly a century.

What we’d still like to know…

  • How are states and municipalities spending the $150 billion allocated to them for COVID-19 related costs?
  • How will the Treasury effectively oversee the spending of the trillions of dollars of funds allocated through CARES?
  • Will there be a requirement that recipients give a public accounting of their expenditures?

The CARES Act Allocation To The Provider Relief Fund

Divvying Out Taxpayer Money to Corporations with Reckless Abandon

The CARES Act allocated $100 billion to the HHS-disbursed Provider Relief Fund, which CMS Administrator Seema Verma publicly announced would come with “no strings attached” and said that health care providers “can essentially spend that in any way that they see fit.” These funds were then automatically deposited into the coffers of companies like Walmart and CVS, without ever having sought them in the first place. While Walmart and CVS returned those funds, questions linger over how CMS determined who would receive funds and whether the agency is truly targeting those who need it most.

What we’d still like to know…

  • Were the funds distributed to the providers and facilities who needed them most?
  • Does HHS plan to do any level of oversight to the at least 179,000 recipients of aid from the fund?
  • Did providers or facilities previously reprimanded by HHS for Medicare or Medicaid fraud receive funds?

Politicization Of Aid:

Trump’s Close Circle Could Be Exploiting Provisions within the CARES Act and Profiting Off of Aid

While the nation is dealing with unprecedented unemployment that will have lasting effects for years into the future, President Trump and his allies have benefited from favorable terms squeezed into stimulus efforts over the past two months. From boosts to the real estate and hotel industries — the Trump family’s bread and butter — to assistance for vineyards, Trump family industries are not being left out of the assistance offered by the government.

Most egregiously, Trump has been using the crisis as a promotional opportunity. While Americans were struggling to afford food, pay rent, and maintain access to the health care, the Trump administration decided to affix the president’s signature to the one-time stimulus payments so many people needed, despite the delay it caused. And on the handful of trips the president has made to battleground states, he has flouted safety guidelines requiring a face mask while at a Ford plant in Michigan, criticized the governor of Pennsylvania for not reopening the state during a trip to a facility manufacturing PPE, and featured political supporters during a factory tour in Arizona. Even in March while the virus raged and the country struggled to roll out testing, Trump wore a MAGA hat during a photo-op at the CDC in Atlanta. And the cherry on top? Apropos of nothing, Trump named his guidelines for reopening states, “Opening Up America Again.”

What we’d still like to know…

  • How many Trump campaign donors have sought and received grants or loans from the federal government in the CARES Act programs?
  • Are President Trump’s family and its various business entities seeking aid or otherwise using the pandemic to gain favorable terms?
  • In his new push to make official stops around the country, will President Trump visit hard-hit traditionally liberal states like New York, Illinois, California, or Massachusetts?

Accountable.US is a nonpartisan watchdog group that exposes corruption across all levels of government.