WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers are asking the Department of Justice to investigate Paycheck Protection Program loans that went to Planned Parenthood affiliates as part of coronavirus relief.
The loans, totaling about $80 million to Planned Parenthood centers according to letters obtained by NPR, were distributed as part of the program to provide loans to small businesses suffering the economic impacts of the pandemic set up by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.
Twenty-seven GOP senators, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr asking that he investigate and accusing the Planned Parenthood affiliates of knowingly applying for loans for which they were ineligible.
The program allowed for small businesses with fewer than 500 employees to apply for up to $10 million in loans to help cover expenses while closed due to the coronavirus. The loans may be forgiven if the money goes toward keeping their employees on their payrolls.
More: Hundreds of publicly traded companies got more than $1 billion from PPP small-business fund
A provision allowed for large corporations’ individual franchises or locations with fewer than 500 employees to qualify for the loans, which resulted in Shake Shack and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse receiving loans that they later gave back. A bipartisan outcry prompted the return of loans from several large or publicly traded companies.
Planned Parenthood says “independent,” local health centers applied for and received the loans under the rules of the CARES Act.
“Because we’re Planned Parenthood we looked at it really carefully, because we knew that our federal government wasn’t always supportive of us,” Stephanie Fraim, president of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, told CBS News. “So we looked at it and looked at it and looked at it. Our bankers did the same thing. We both came to the same conclusion: We unequivocally qualified for this.”
The Trump administration this week notified Planned Parenthood affiliates they were deemed ineligible due to their association with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the national organization, according to news reports.
Letters sent to Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington and Planned Parenthood of Delaware from the Small Business Administration, obtained by NPR, said the agency had “preliminarily concluded” the affiliates were ineligible “under the applicable affiliation rules and size standards, consistent with Congressional intent, and that the loan you have received should be returned.” The agency said 38 loans were distributed.
More: House plans to vote on changes to small business loan program to offer more flexibility
The senators wrote that Planned Parenthood affiliates obtained the loans “fraudulently,” and that they were “not designed to give government funds to politicized, partisan abortion providers like Planned Parenthood.”
“Thank you for your work investigating and prosecuting those who would fraudulently steal millions of dollars in taxpayer funds during this pandemic,” they wrote to Barr.
Dozens of Republican members of Congress signed onto another letter requesting the Small Business Administration conduct its own investigation. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who chairs the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, called for an investigation “into how these loans were made in clear violation of the applicable affiliation rules and if Planned Parenthood, the banks, or staff at the SBA knowingly violated the law, all appropriate legal options should be pursued.”
Planned Parenthood Federation of America said in a statement that the coronavirus pandemic has had a “significant impact” on local health centers and that the loans have helped affiliates retain staff and provide “essential, time-sensitive sexual and reproductive health care during this crisis.”
“This is a clear political attack on Planned Parenthood health centers and access to reproductive health care. It has nothing to do with Planned Parenthood health care organizations’ eligibility for COVID-19 relief efforts, and everything to do with the Trump administration using a public health crisis to advance a political agenda and distract from their own failures in protecting the American public from the spread of COVID-19,” said Jacqueline Ayers, vice president of government relations and public policy.
“This is not the time to play politics, and it is certainly not the time to reduce access to critical health care,” Ayers said.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Republicans want investigation into Planned Parenthood for PPP loans