JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With business down almost across the board because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, local companies are relying on government PPP loans to keep them going.
This week, the U.S. government released data showing who got that help and how much each recipient took in, including restaurants, stores and services in Northeast Florida.
Shortly after seeing the data, Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott claimed it hasn’t been an even distribution.
“What do we need to do?” he said in a radio interview. “Help the people that lost their jobs, help our small businesses, make sure our schools get open.”
Scott complained that the majority of the money is bailing out huge corporations instead of supporting small businesses. He’s pushing an amendment that would only help companies that can prove a substantial reduction in revenue from COVID-19.
As of now, more than 50% of the funding nationally went to just 5% of those who received funding. The treasury secretary said more help could be on the way.
“There are things like PPP that, in my opinion, there’s $140 billion sitting in the general fund, ready to go out,” said Steven Mnuchin.
The I-TEAM has analyzed government documents showing that more than 32,000 businesses have gotten federal help in Northeast Florida; 14,000 in the city of Jacksonville alone.
And crunching the numbers, big businesses appear to be benefiting more than the local small mom-and-pop operations.
Three companies got loans of $10 million:
- Nextran Corporation, which sells and services semi-trucks
- Stein Mart, which went out of business, but was just purchased by the owner of Pier 1
- SNI Companies, a staffing agency
There are two related companies that got more than $10 million if the loans are combined. TLC Central LLC ($7,462,300) and TLC West ($7,123,900) are part of the TL Cannon Companies, owners of Applebee’s franchises nationwide. They list a Ponte Vedra address. Records show the company’s restaurant operations are headquartered in New York, but their administrative/financial offices are in St. Johns County.
However, the median loan amount in Northeast Florida is $21,207, a much smaller piece of the pie.
Serving up superior spuds, the owners of Mr. Potato Spread in Regency Square Mall haven’t stopped serving since the pandemic.
“We’re just depending on the help of people coming and buying and supporting us,” said co-owner Aaron Spann, who also runs a food truck by the same name.
And while sales are down because people are staying home more, they’re filling in the gaps with a federal PPP loan: $27,000 to keep eight employees on staff.
“Loans are always good,” Spann said. “Anything that can help.”