Congress came to their rescue during an unprecedented economic crisis brought on by COVID-19. The legislative branch built a unique safety net, dubbed the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act, which poured $2 trillion into America’s economy.
The flagship part of the bill, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), promised to cover the cost of employee payroll of small businesses, at a time when the entire nation was shutting down and unable to make ends meet.
Amazingly, some of the people who received the money responded, less than a year later, by attempting to kill the very legislators who put the program in place—the ones who kept their businesses afloat and employees able to survive.
But the government is forgiving them anyway.
In a review of PPP data obtained from ProPublica, the Daily Dot discovered many well-known Capitol insurrectionists have had their loans forgiven, some being absolved of nearly a million dollars in funds.
ProPublica recently updated their database, in accordance with newly released government data, to reflect PPP loans that have been forgiven.
A big selling part of the PPP, making businesses less skeptical about taking millions from the government, was that the loans, administered through the Small Business Administration (SBA), could be completely forgiven. As long as the majority of the funds were used towards employee payroll, and the rest towards related business expenses, a company wouldn’t be on the hook for paying back the money.
Participation in the Capitol riot, apparently, isn’t a clause that will exclude you from the forgiveness program.
The rioters who’ve had debts washed out include members of the anti-government militia the Three Percenters; the Proud Boys; and a West Virginia resident who attacked Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who died the next day.
Many participated in the most high-profile and violent incidents during the insurrection.
Shannon Giles, a spokesperson for the SBA, said in a statement that, “As per long-standing agency policy, the SBA does not comment on individual borrowers.”
She continued, “However, if eligible borrowers meet the terms of eligibility for first draw PPP loans and second draw PPP loans, they are able to apply for and receive forgiveness.”
The Paycheck Protection Program forgiveness application asks the borrower for documentation confirming the company’s costs of payroll. It also requires documentation for any other business expenses to also be submitted.
Financial institutions who approved the loan also need to sign off on the forgiveness plan.
There are no other notable criteria required to receive forgiveness.
Dominic Pezzola, known as “Spazzo,” was arrested on Jan. 15 for obstruction, and later charged with conspiracy. He received $12,502 for a home contracting business, D. Pezzola Flooring, forgiven in June 2021.
Pezzola, a Proud Boy, remains incarcerated, having been denied bail. How and when he was able to apply for forgiveness remains unclear.
Russell Taylor, a Southern California resident, was indicted for conspiracy and carrying a deadly weapon. Prior to storming the Capitol, he received a PPP loan for a graphic design company, Fusion Of Ideas for $496,407. That loan was forgiven in April.
Taylor is a member of the Three Percenters, an anti-government militia group.
After storming the Capitol, Fusion Of Ideas received another loan during the PPP’s second round, for $522,612. That was forgiven in October.
According to the Orange County Register, Taylor “stepped away from Fusion of Ideas in 2020 and no longer owns any interest in the company.”
George Pierre Tanios, indicted for conspiracy and assault on a federal officer, received $52,110 for his West Virginia sandwich shop, called Sandwich U (approved under an LLC known as Lebanese Connection) which was forgiven on Jan. 8, 2021.
Both Tanios, along with a friend, Julian Khater, attacked Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick. Sicknick died of a stroke on Jan. 7, just a day before the loan was forgiven.
Richard Barnett, indicted for obstruction and disorderly conduct after being photographed with his feet up on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) desk, received $9,300 for his home contracting business.
That loan was forgiven in May.
Jenny Cudd was also indicted for obstruction and disorderly conduct and posted on Facebook, “We did break down (House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi’s front door.” She received $41,000 for her Midland, Texas flower shop.
It was forgiven eight days after the insurrection.
Other high-profile insurrectionists at the Capitol that day also received loan forgiveness. That includes Dr. Simone Gold, who spreads misinformation about COVID-19 and received $20,833, and Trump booster Brandon Straka, who received two loans totaling $33,154.
Both were forgiven.
PPP applications state, “(if) the applicant (or any individual owning 20% or more of the equity of the applicant presently incarcerated or, for any felony, presently subject to an indictment, criminal information, arraignment, or other means by which formal criminal charges are brought in any jurisdiction,” the loan will be automatically denied.
But incarceration on a felony committed after the loan was received doesn’t appear to factor in. As the SBA told the Daily Dot, “If eligible borrowers meet the terms of eligibility for PPP loans, they are able to apply for and receive forgiveness.”
The Daily Dot reached out to Gold, Straka, Tanios, and Barnett, via phone, email, and social media. None responded to requests for comment.
Russell Taylor referred the Daily Dot to his attorney, who referred the Daily Dot to the attorney for Fusion Of Ideas, who in turn did not respond to a request for comment.
Cudd responded on Facebook, “I do not comment to tiny, unknown, leftist bloggers.”
Dominic Pezzola is currently incarcerated and could not be reached for comment.