by Farnoush Amiri
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A company partly owned by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine is among those that received loans from a $600 billion-plus coronavirus aid program.
The data released Monday shows DeWine Seeds Silver Dollar Baseball received a loan under the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program for a range of $150,000 to $350,000.
The company owns the Asheville Tourists, a minor league baseball team in North Carolina, which was purchased by the governor’s family in 2010. DeWine’s son, Brian DeWine, currently serves as president of the baseball team.
DeWine, a Republican, said through a spokesman that he holds a 32% stake in the baseball team and plays no management role. Spokesman Dan Tierney said the loan was for $189,500, to be used to cover payroll and payroll-related expenses.
DeWine was touted for his early, aggressive response to the virus, while also getting pushback for his actions’ effects on the economy. He was one of at least six governors of both parties with stakes in businesses that records showed got loans through the program.
The Paycheck Protection Program is the centerpiece of the federal government’s plan to rescue an economy devastated by shutdowns and uncertainty. The program, which helps smaller businesses stay open and keep Americans employed during the pandemic, has been both popular and controversial.
Within Ohio, tens of thousands of businesses received loans, records showed. They ranged from hospitals to colleges, from law firms to manufacturing companies. A small percentage of successful applicants were nonprofits, among them Cleveland’s Playhouse Square, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Ohio Historical Society. Fast-food chain White Castle, headquartered in Columbus, also received a loan under the program.
The types of businesses that applied reflected the economic distress felt within a range of industries in Ohio since the pandemic began to take its toll in mid-March.
Under the PPP, the government is backing $659 billion in low-interest loans written by banks. Taxpayer money will pay off the loans if borrowers use them on payroll, rent, and similar expenses. Companies typically must have fewer than 500 workers to qualify.
Demand was so great that the first infusion of $349 billion ran out in just two weeks. Many Main Street businesses couldn’t navigate the application process rapidly enough to get one of those first loans before funding dried up. Meanwhile, several hundred companies traded on stock exchanges – hardly the image of a small business – received loans maxing out at $10 million each, causing a public backlash and leading dozens to return the money.
Congress added $310 billion to the program, but confusing, shifting, and sometimes restrictive rules cooled interest. About $140 billion was unclaimed as the application deadline closed June 30. With money still available, Congress voted to extend the program just as it was expiring, setting a new date of Aug. 8.
The public may never know the identity of more than 80% of the nearly 5 million beneficiaries to date because the administration has refused to release details on loans under $150,000 – the vast majority of borrowers.
That secrecy spurred an open-records lawsuit by a group of news organizations, including The Associated Press.
Still, the release of the data is the most complete look at the program’s recipients so far.
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Farnoush Amiri is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
Photo “The Asheville Tourists” by Asheville Tourists Baseball Club.