The Paycheck Safety Program’s unfastened guidelines allowed just about any small enterprise or firm in America to qualify for a government-backed aid mortgage. Residents and activist teams have criticized hundreds of recipients that they deemed unworthy, together with rich attorneys, politicians and political lobbyists, publicly traded firms and businesses under government investigation.
Now, an advocacy group that fights on-line misinformation is drawing consideration to a gaggle of mortgage recipients it finds troubling: anti-vaccine activists.
Six organizations which have challenged the security of vaccines and made claims that scientists have referred to as false acquired loans that collectively added as much as greater than $1.1 million, based on information from the Small Enterprise Administration, which manages this system. (The info was released last month under a court order, in response to a lawsuit filed by The New York Occasions and different information organizations.)
The teams that acquired the loans are Kids’s Well being Protection, founded by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.; the Knowledgeable Consent Motion Community; the Nationwide Vaccine Data Middle; Mercola.com Well being Assets and Mercola Consulting Providers, each affiliated with the outstanding vaccine skeptic Joseph Mercola; and the Tenpenny Integrative Medical Middle, a medical follow run by Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, a doctor and writer who opposes vaccines.
The loans, which have been made by banks and backed by the federal government, ranged in dimension from $72,500 to Dr. Tenpenny’s medical middle to $335,000 to Mercola.com. They don’t seem to violate Small Enterprise Administration guidelines: P.P.P. loans have been broadly accessible to any small firm or nonprofit (typically these with 500 or fewer employees) prepared to certify that “present financial uncertainty makes this mortgage request needed” to help their persevering with operations.
The Middle for Countering Digital Hate, a London-based advocacy group, uncovered the loans and alerted The Washington Publish, which first reported on them. Imran Ahmed, the group’s chief government, referred to as it “bananas” that such teams have been eligible for taxpayer-funded aid cash.
“There’s an anomaly right here,” Mr. Ahmed mentioned. “The P.P.P. was wanted to cope with the financial shock of Covid, and the anti-vaxxers essentially inhibit our capability to defeat Covid and transfer previous this.”
Barbara Loe Fisher, the president of the Nationwide Vaccine Data Middle in Sterling, Va., mentioned by electronic mail that her group utilized for the mortgage “when it grew to become obvious that lockdowns and social distancing restrictions instantly threatened the job safety of plenty of our staff and jeopardized continued rental of our Virginia headquarters workplace.” The group used the mortgage to retain all of its 21 employees, she mentioned.
Ms. Fisher disputed the notion that her group is anti-vaccine. The group “doesn’t make vaccine use suggestions and encourages everybody to grow to be absolutely knowledgeable concerning the dangers and issues of infectious illnesses and vaccines,” she mentioned.
The Paycheck Safety Program distributed $523 billion to greater than 5 million small firms from April to August to assist them endure the shutdowns and different financial shocks attributable to the coronavirus pandemic. As long as recipients use a lot of the cash to pay their employees and adjust to different guidelines, the loans are eligible to be absolutely forgiven and paid off by the U.S. authorities.