Millions of PPP aid to traffic camera companies linked to corruption scandals

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Companies contracting with major US cities to provide red lights and other traffic control cameras have raised millions of taxpayer-funded assistance through the paycheck protection program despite their alleged involvement in past corruption scandals.

Data released by the Small Business Administration on Monday revealed the names of more than 658,000 small businesses that have received government assistance through the $ 670 billion paycheck protection program since its launch in early April.

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The agency did not disclose the specific dollar amounts of the loans and instead provided a range for each loan. Data shows that the government has issued $ 521 billion in loans, with an average loan size of $ 107,000. Combined, the assistance program supported about 51 million jobs, or about 84% of all employees working in small businesses, said the Small Business Administration.

Redflex Traffic Systems, an Australia-based company that operates in North America from Phoenix, Arizona, received a loan between $ 2 million and $ 5 million, according to the data. The money helped the company retain 168 employees.

It is not illegal for US subsidiaries of foreign companies to request assistance through PPP under certain conditions. Overall, the rescue program is open to any business with fewer than 500 employees per location. As long as 60% of the money goes to maintain the wage bill, the federal government will forgive the loan, essentially turning the loan into a grant.

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But Redflex has a controversial past: former company CEO Karen Finley was one of three people sentenced to federal prison in 2016 for a long-standing bribery system that resulted in contracts lucrative in Chicago. The company paid the city $ 20 million to settle a lawsuit.

Redflex has exerted similar pressure on officials in Columbus, Ohio, to extend their contracts with the company, according to the Chicago Tribune. Ohio state lawmakers have since banned tickets to red light cameras unless an officer is present when the violation occurs.

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Chicago-based SafeSpeed ​​secured a loan of between $ 1 million and $ 2 million, which saved 39 employees, the data said.

The red-light salesman was also charged with bribing Chicago city officials to push bills in his favor and to oppose legislation that threatened his interests. The head of the company denied any fault.

Former Illinois senator Senator Martin Sandoval pleaded guilty to federal corruption and tax evasion charges in January. Sandoval said he took $ 250,000 in bribes from SafeSpeed ​​to ensure the company was able to install red light traffic cameras in the Chicago suburbs.

Redflex and SafeSpeed ​​did not respond to requests for comment.

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