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The Trump administration is asking local Planned Parenthood affiliates in the United States to repay millions of dollars in loans received through the federal government’s coronavirus rescue program.
In letters obtained by NPR, the Small Business Administration, which manages the Paycheck Protection Program, informs local affiliates that they are not eligible under the program rules to limit funds to small businesses and non-profit organizations lucrative. In total, according to the letters, Planned Parenthood affiliates nationwide have asked for more than $ 80 million through the loan forgiveness program established by CARES.
Under the program rules, small businesses and non-profit organizations with fewer than 500 employees can apply for repayable loans. Planned Parenthood officials say local member organizations that fall within these limits – not the larger national group – asked for and received the funds.
The Small Business Administration requests affiliates to return funds or respond with documents demonstrating eligibility for the program. The letters end with a warning that “if SBA determines that a borrower has knowingly made a false certification” on a loan application, the agency “may refer the borrower for appropriate civil or criminal penalties”.
In a letter to Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, an SBA official notes that the organization in Washington, DC, has requested just over $ 1.3 million in funding under the program, which has been implemented. place to help small businesses keep their employees on their payroll during the crisis. A similar letter to Planned Parenthood of Delaware refers to a loan application for $ 496,225. The letters were first reported by Fox News.
Stephanie Fraim, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, told NPR that her organization had received just over $ 2 million, mostly to cover paychecks for its employees.
“The economic uncertainty at the time was deep, and the two weeks while we were waiting for this loan, we had very difficult conversations about what we would do if we did not get this loan,” said Fraim.
Jacqueline Ayers, vice president of government relations and public policy at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said the SBA’s decision was part of a politically motivated “relentless attack” by the Trump administration, which opposes the right to abortion and has taken steps to restrict access. abortion and contraception.
Since the start of the pandemic, groups opposed to the right to abortion have expressed concern that relief funds for coronaviruses are not directed to organizations like Planned Parenthood. Many family planning clinics provide abortions as well as other reproductive health services, but the use of federal funds to pay for abortions is prohibited in most cases.
Several Republican senators are also calling on Planned Parenthood to return the funds distributed through the paycheck protection program. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, Chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, said that, taken together, Planned Parenthood affiliates have too many employees nationwide to be eligible under the program rules . He said he wanted the Small Business Administration to investigate why and how Planned Parenthood received the money.
In an interview with NPR, Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) Also said that Planned Parenthood should return the funds, as several major corporations and leading organizations have done after being criticized.
“That’s what the Los Angeles Lakers did. This is what Shake Shack did. That’s what Ruth’s Chris is [Steak House] did, “said Lankford. So other organizations that have been exposed that they shouldn’t have taken the money have returned the money, so that would be reasonable for them. ”
Legal experts say the eligibility rules for the paycheck protection program are somewhat unclear and have changed as the program rolled out.
“They keep changing the rules,” said Jessica Abrahams, a specialist in public procurement law with Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath. “So the entities that qualified three weeks ago may not qualify today. There is a lot of confusion, a lot of concern. “