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Bailing out religious groups and members of the Grand Rapids Power Structure: See which entities received Paycheck Protection Program funding

July 16, 2020

There is been a fair amount of attention given to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a program which small businesses with relief loans during the pandemic.

However, like much of the relief money coming from the federal government, funding through the Paycheck Protection Program has benefited banks. According to a recent article on The Intercept

The Small Business Association, which is running the PPP program, has long been criticized for struggling to process emergency relief quickly during past natural disasters. So when the time came to respond to the coronavirus crisis as fast as possible, the SBA was in no position to do it itself, and Congress mandated that the loans be run through banks instead.

The same article provides two examples of banks that are making millions from the PPP:

New Jersey-based Cross River Bank’s estimated $163 million haul would be more than double its net revenue last year. JPMorgan Chase could make $864 million.

There has also been a fair amount of attention to the fact that the Ayn Rand Institute, the far right think tank, had received PPP funding. However, as the Center for Media & Democracy has pointed out, there are numerous far right groups that have received PPP funding from the federal government, listed below.

MLive, also posted an article about PPP funds going to businesses in Michigan last week, with the headline, 185 Michigan businesses got at least $5 million in federal paycheck protection dollars

The MLive article also provide a way for people to search which businesses received PPP funding from the federal government. There were 30 businesses in Grand Rapids  that received between $5 – 10 million of federal taxpayer money, including businesses such as Rockford Construction, Warner Norcross & Judd, Michigan Turkey Producers and Barfly Ventures LLC.

There were 69 entities receiving between $2 – 5 million, including Aquinas College, Catholic Charities West Michigan, Grand Rapids Christian Schools, Progressive AE, RBC Ministries and Westwood Christian Services.

There were 135 entities in Grand Rapids that received between $1 – 2 million of PPP funding, including Atomic Object, Butterball Farms Inc, General Synod Council of the Reformed Church in America, Mel Trotter Ministries, Northpointe Christian School and Plasan North America.

There were 435 entities that received between $350,000 and $1 million, including All Saints Academy, Calvary Church, Calvin Theological Seminary, Catholic Central High, CWD Real Estate Investment LLC, Fox Motor Group LLC, Holy Spirit Parish, Kuyper College, Seyferth & Associates and Wolverine Gas and Oil Corporation.

Lastly, there were 679 entities that received between $150,000 and $350,000, including Art Prize, Christian Schools International, Ellis Parking, Grand Rapids Downtown Market Inc, Grand Rapids Youth for Christ, Long Road Distillers, MIBIZ Inc, Mike & Johnny Brann’s Steak & Seafood Inc, Pregnancy Resource Center, Start Garden Inc, Tommy Brann’s Steak & Seafood and Words of Hope Inc.

What is instructive about this list is that there are a great deal of religious groups getting bailed out by public tax money, which I find extremely troubling. Where is the separation of Church & State. If these religious groups can get public money, then they need to be paying taxes.

In addition, there are several businesses and business entities that are deeply entrenched in the Grand Rapids Power Structure, such as Rockford Construction, Warner Norcross & Judd, CWD Real Estate Investment LLC, Fox Motor Group LLC, Wolverine Gas and Oil Corporation, Art Prize, Grand Rapids Downtown Market Inc and Start Garden Inc. Lastly, a few of the businesses have also been vocally in support of the GRPD, especially since the Defund the GRPD campaign began, notably the Brann restaurants and Long Road Distillers.

It is instructive that these groups are getting public tax money, especially since they have a history of being anti-union, some are anti-public education and many of them are connected to groups like the West Michigan Policy Forum, which lobbies state lawmakers to pass neo-liberal policies that hurt working class people, the LGBTQ community and disproportionately Black and latinx communities.

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