W.Va. Governor’s Firms Get Millions In Viral Loans

The family businesses of West Virginia billionaire Jim Justice have received at least $ 11.1 million in a federal bailout to keep small businesses afloat during the coronavirus pandemic, according to data released Monday by the department of the Treasury.

Justice, a Republican, is considered the richest man in West Virginia due to the ownership of dozens of coal and farming businesses, many of which have been sued for unpaid debts.

At least six entities in the Justice family have received loans from the Paycheck Protection Program, including four energy companies, the lavish governor’s complex The Greenbrier, as well as the Greenbrier Sporting Club, an exclusive club for people who own real estate in the resort, according to the data. . The companies have been listed as raising between $ 11.15 million and $ 24.35 million because the federal government disclosed dollar amounts by ranges, not specific amounts.

The aid program is the centerpiece of the federal government’s plan to save an economy devastated by closures and uncertainty, data released Monday presenting the most comprehensive account of the program to date.

The judge admitted last week that his private companies received money from the program, but said he did not know the specific dollar amounts. A representative of the governor’s family businesses did not immediately return an email asking for comment. At a press briefing on Monday, Justice again said he was unsure of the dollar amount, but added that he was pushing for companies to take advantage of any federal virus-fighting programs.

“I have encouraged all businesses in our state to try and find whatever they can ask the federal government for when it comes to loans,” the justice said, adding that about $ 2 billion has come in. State of the federal package.

The governor said he wanted to put his assets in a blind trust soon after his election, but did not. He maintains that his children control the family business empire. Yet Justice has been criticized throughout his tenure as governor by those who say he is too focused on his private businesses to carry out his government duties. The governor repeatedly rejected these claims.

Justice bought the Greenbrier station from bankruptcy in 2009. Nestled in the Allegheny Mountains in Southeast West Virginia, The Greenbrier bills itself as America’s complex and once served as a secret bunker for the Cold War era for federal congestion. Today, the National Historic Landmark has over 700 rooms and has hosted a PGA Tour stop. It has temporarily closed due to the pandemic.

The complex came under intense scrutiny by federal prosecutors last year, when lawyers from a state corruption unit sent three subpoenas to the administration of justice to request documents related to The Greenbrier, the PGA Tournament, the nonprofit financial arm of the tournament, and the Justice Tax Records. The governor’s personal legal team told reporters at a press conference in January that the investigation was concluded without any wrongdoing.

Last year, another Justice family business, Justice Farms of North Carolina, received $ 125,000 in soybean and corn subsidies, the maximum allowed by a separate federal program intended to help American farmers through the trade war. of the United States with China. The payments, made public through documents provided to The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act, highlighted the sometimes strained relationship between the billionaire’s businesses and his role as chief executive.

Justice won the Democrat job in 2016, but announced after less than a year as governor that he was changing his party affiliation to Republican in a rally with President Donald Trump.

As part of the Paycheck Protection Program, the government is supporting $ 659 billion in low-interest loans from banks. Taxpayer money will repay loans if borrowers use them for payroll, rent, and similar expenses. Companies generally need to have fewer than 500 workers to qualify.

Demand was so high that a first injection of $ 349 billion ran out in just two weeks. Many Main Street businesses couldn’t navigate the application process quickly enough to secure one of these early loans before funding dried up. Meanwhile, several hundred exchange-traded companies – barely the image of a small business – have received loans of up to $ 10 million each, which has sparked public backlash and led to dozen to refund the money.

Congress added $ 310 billion to the program, but confusing, shifting and sometimes restrictive rules dampened interest. About $ 140 billion was unclaimed as the application deadline ended on June 30. With funds still available, Congress voted to extend the program just as it expired, setting a new date for August 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 of loans under $ 150,000 – the vast majority borrowers. This secrecy sparked legal action by a group of news organizations, including the Associated Press.


Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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