Covid Stimulus Watch: New Website Documents Accountability Track Records of CARES Act Recipients
Amid continuing controversy over some of the companies receiving federal financial assistance under the Paycheck Protection Program, a new website launched today makes it easier to see the accountability track records of companies getting help through the PPP and the other programs authorized by the massive CARES Act. The site, Covid Stimulus Watch, was produced by the non-profit organization Good Jobs First and is free for all to use at https://covidstimuluswatch.org/.
"Our new website enables users to quickly see if recipient corporations have received previous financial assistance from federal or state agencies, and whether they have been penalized for abuses of their workers, government contracts, the environment, consumer protections or shareholder safeguards,” said Good Jobs First research director Philip Mattera, who leads the work on Covid Stimulus Watch. “We also provide data on excessive CEO pay and tax avoidance by large companies. The public has a right to know all of this with regard to CARES Act recipients.”
Covid Stimulus Watch currently contains data on awards from the PPP and the Payroll Support Program (for airlines) that publicly traded companies have reported in public filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The site contains a few awards that privately held companies have announced in press releases. The website is structured so that it can easily incorporate bulk recipient data that will hopefully be released in the near future by the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve and the Small Business Administration.
Along with active awards, the site separately lists more than two dozen PPP loans that some larger companies have announced they are returning, in response to public outcries.
The accountability data linked to the recipients comes in six categories. Four of those are derived from data in Good Jobs First’s Violation Tracker: employment-related penalties (such as wage theft and workplace discrimination); government-contracting related penalties (mainly False Claims Act cases); environmental, healthcare and safety penalties; and consumer protection, financial misconduct and unfair competition penalties.
The fifth category, relating to taxes and subsidies, shows which large companies have paid very low federal income tax rates and which have received large amounts of pre-pandemic financial assistance from federal, state and local programs, such as those shown in Good Jobs First’s Subsidy Tracker. The final category shows which recipient companies have high levels of executive compensation, especially in comparison to what they pay a typical worker.
The small set of recipients currently listed in Covid Stimulus Watch already illustrate the accountability issues at stake. For example, the major airlines that are receiving billions of dollars in aid raise concerns in multiple categories. United has paid out over $40 million to settle employment discrimination lawsuits. American Airlines has paid over $70 million in safety violations. JetBlue and Delta had negative federal income tax rates in 2018. The ratio of the pay of American’s CEO to that of its median employee was 195 to 1.
Concerning data can also be seen about some of the smaller recipients. One PPP recipient, Veritone Inc., paid its CEO $18 million in compensation. Another PPP company, FuelCell Energy, received more than $170 million in federal grants prior to the pandemic.
“We hope this information will be used widely by public officials, advocates, journalists and others to advance the debate over which companies deserve financial assistance amid the current crisis—and what safeguards should be put in place,” said Good Jobs First executive director Greg LeRoy.
Editor’s Note: Good Jobs First is a non-profit, non-partisan research center. Founded in 1998, it is headquartered in Washington DC. It is home to Subsidy Tracker, Tax Break Tracker and Violation Tracker, and was honored for its leadership in winning GASB Statement 77 on Tax Abatement Disclosures, a landmark in municipal finance.