The Potluck

Minnesota private schools, restaurants among businesses that got federal loans, new records show

By: - July 6, 2020 3:37 pm

Photo illustration by Getty Images

The federal government issued more than 98,000 loans to Minnesota businesses and nonprofits through the Paycheck Protection Program, including pricey private schools and a conservative think tank, according to data released Monday.

Nonprofits, restaurant corporations, construction companies and churches were among the 13,700 organizations that received loans of at least $150,000. Here are some of the beneficiaries of the biggest loans:

  • Granite City — $5-10 million
  • Wilder Foundation — $5-10 million
  • Center for the American Experiment — $150,000-300,000
  • Hazeltine Golf Club — $350,000-1 million
  • Benilde St. Margaret’s — $2-5 million
  • Academy of Holy Angels — $1-2 million
  • The Blake School — $2-5 million
  • Famous Dave’s — $5-10 million

The program, intended to help small businesses weather the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, has been critical in helping businesses in Minnesota and across the country avoid layoffs. But the program has also been rife with problems

During the first round of applications for the forgivable loans in early April, $349 billion ran out in 13 days. When applications for the second round opened up, the program’s computer system crashed within an hour. Critics raised concerns about transparency when the federal government didn’t release detailed information about the loans as they were issued, and 11 news organizations sued for the loan records. 

This spring, dozens of large companies received millions through the program, including the Los Angeles Lakers and the companies that run Potbelly Sandwich Shops and Shake Shack, all of which announced they would return the loans. And government reports found that the program wasn’t prioritizing minority- and women-owned businesses as Congress intended, and that rules governing how the funds can be used may leave some businesses buried by debt.

During the first round of loans, fewer than half of Minnesota’s small businesses received loans. Businesses in construction, manufacturing and health care industries received the most money.

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Rilyn Eischens
Rilyn Eischens

Rilyn Eischens is a data reporter with the Reformer. Rilyn is a Minnesota native and has worked in newsrooms in the Twin Cities, Iowa, Texas and most recently Virginia, where she covered education for The Staunton News Leader. She's an alumna of the Dow Jones News Fund data journalism program and the Minnesota Daily. When Rilyn isn't in the newsroom, she likes to read, add to her plant collection and try new recipes.