Governors' companies among recipients of virus relief loans

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FILE - This Sept. 15, 2019, file photo shows The Greenbrier resort nestled in the mountains in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. At least six of billionaire West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice family entities received the Paycheck Protection Program loans, including the governors lavish resort The Greenbrier, as well as The Greenbrier Sporting Club, an exclusive members-only club linked to the resort. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Governors who ordered shutdowns as their states responded to the coronavirus pandemic were among millions of beneficiaries of the loan program created to help small businesses weather COVID-19's effect on the economy, data released Monday show.

The governors of at least eight states have ties to companies that received loans through the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program. Both Republicans and Democrats, their associated companies' loans ranged from $150,000 to more than $11 million. It is legal for businesses owned by elected officials to apply for and receive the loans, which are forgivable if used to preserve jobs.

A minor league baseball team part-owned by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine received a loan, as did an investment company led by New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu’s family. A communications company in which New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has a stake, and a winery and hospitality company founded by California Gov. Gavin Newsom also were beneficiaries. At least six of billionaire West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice's family businesses qualified for loans. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s former medical practice, in which he’s still invested, a commercial real estate brokerage firm started by Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, and an air conditioning and supply company partially owned by Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves also received loans.

Governors have played a leading role in the U.S. response to the deadly coronavirus pandemic, issuing orders that shut down businesses and schools, establishing guidelines on masks and social distancing, and shuttering residents in their homes.

Their businesses were able to successfully navigate a system that many Main Street businesses had trouble accessing before the application deadline was extended to early next month. The aid package is the centerpiece of the federal government’s plan to rescue an economy devastated by shutdowns and uncertainty. The data released by the Treasury Department presents the fullest accounting of the program thus far.

Governors' successful efforts to tap the loan program came, in some cases, as they faced pushback against the economic effects of their virus policies. The Republican DeWine, for example, has been rebuked by some local party officials and targeted in statehouse protests for going too far in his response.

He is a part-owner of DeWine Seeds-Silver Dollar Baseball, which received a loan listed between $150,000 and $350,000. The company owns the Asheville Tourists, a minor league baseball team in North Carolina, which was purchased by the governor’s family in 2010. DeWine’s son, Brian DeWine, serves as president of the team.

A spokesman said DeWine has a 32% stake in the baseball team and plays no management role. He said the loan, for $189,500, will cover payroll and payroll-related expenses.