While Texas businesses got a suspiciously disproportionate share of the loans from the Paycheck Protection Program's COVID-19 loan fund for small businesses, not all Texas "small" businesses were treated the same. That's just one more reason Democrats have to hold firm against Mitch McConnell's efforts to simply jam more money through without serious changes to how it's distributed.
The Texas Tribune calls the efforts to compete for the influx of loan dollars to the state "a Darwinian scramble to stay afloat." That's how it played out, the paper reports. "[T]he capacity of businesses to swiftly secure that money often depended on their financial sophistication and the support of high-priced accountants, bankers and attorneys. […] What has become clear in that process is that small-business owners have vastly different levels of sophistication, and federal government aid often depended on how strong of a preexisting relationship a businessperson had with a bank." Or to be not so small a business, like Ruth's Chris Steak House.
That high-end restaurant chain employees more than 5,000 workers and was among the first to get its $20 million in "small business" loans. Its loan was secured on April 7, four days after the SBA opened up for loan applications in the new program. How? Language in the bill allowed restaurant and hotel chains (go figure) to compete with the businesses that should be getting the money, those with 500 or fewer employees, no matter how many people work for them. What about the maximum $10 million limit that was supposed to be on the loans? That was easy for Ruth's Chris—it just had two of its subsidiaries apply for the maximum. Yes, it's "primarily" paying for payroll with these loans. It also had a $42 million profit last year.
All in all, a big, big proportion of the money was in $1 million or more loans, 47% as of April 13. And as we've already seen, concentrated in red states. It's almost enough to make you think that some big Republican donors were the first to get in line.
So, yes, Democrats. Don't let McConnell and Trump keep doing this. Make sure that money goes to the restaurants that don't clear millions in profits every year. Make sure it goes to the economic engines of the country—businesses in the big, blue states. Or at least there's a level playing field for real small businesses wherever they're located.