Alibi V.29 No.17 • April 23-29, 2020 

News Feature

Where Did the Dough Go?

Publicly Traded Companies Receive Big Cut of SBA Federal Relief Package

How do I even start an article with so much anger in my heart? Where do I begin? The highly anticipated $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding has, of course, gone largely to profitable large-scale companies and not the small business owners in emergent need.

Most notable recipients of large sums of money include Ruth’s Chris–who received a whopping $20 million on April 7th–and Shake Shack, who are now “giving back” their humble award of $10 million.

I don’t know how many of you have worked for an actual small business. I’ve had the opportunity to do so for over 10 years of my life so far with various companies, and I get to see the nitty gritty details that business owners don’t talk about to their friends. Profit margins are almost nonexistent, and it’s a constant struggle to stay open and keep employees on payroll. Workers make willing sacrifices regularly to stay with companies and jobs that they love. How can we sit by idly while businesses who have more than $100 million in cash available receive $10 million dollars in immediate aid, but businesses who could keep themselves afloat with only $5,000 are denied?

“Why did you even apply for the money in the first place?” asks CNN reporter Alicia Wallace to Shake Shack CEO Randy Garutti.

“For the very reason, I think, as it was intended, right? To take care of our team and employ as many people–look, our team members have as much value as any other team member in the world,” Garutti spits out.

Garutti continues to stumble over justifying why a company as profitable as Shake Shack would even apply at all, when so many businesses stand to shut their doors this month without help, but he clearly seems to think giving the money back will make everything ok. It won’t.

When businesses with fewer than 10 employees are denied crucial funding, "It's a reminder to small businesses that our voices are dampened," April Richardson, owner of D.C. bakery DC Sweet Potato Cake, told CNN Business. "What are we doing this for? Why are we in business just to be told we're not good enough because we're not big enough?"

Other publicly traded companies with over 500 employees that received large amounts of funding include Potbelly restaurants, Fiesta Restaurant Group, J Alexander’s Holdings, Hallador Energy Company, New Age Beverages and DMC Global.

New Mexico alone has 154,257 actual small businesses, and those businesses are already being crushed under the weight of COVID-19. Even worse, local restaurants are being preyed upon by national food delivery services who take 30 percent of their miniscule earnings to deliver food to self-isolated customers. Our local businesses urgently need help, and the funding has already run out.

The Senate has approved another $484 billion to aid small businesses and hospitals doing coronavirus testing, so maybe some of that money can actually make it to small businesses this time. I won’t hold my breath.