What exactly did the COVID relief money fund, anyway?

The wasteful spending by our government is no big secret, as it has unfortunately been going on forever, but I just came across some information that brought out government wasteful spending practices to rock bottom.

During COVID, the government came up with a not very well thought out idea: the "Paycheck Protection Program" (PPP).  In principle, PPP sounded good, but in practice, it was a blatant abuse of the taxpayers' money to the extent that it enriched the bank accounts of multimillion-dollar law firms.  The government actually used the taxpayers' hard earned money to make the already rich lawyers even richer, via a very underserved windfall for doing absolutely nothing but filling out a form.

A mind-boggling 200,503 businesses in the so-called "Offices of Lawyers" industry received a total of $16.4 billion of taxpayers' money in this money-squandering program.  The criteria for the law firms to receive this money was minimal, almost to the point that it was a joke.  The PPP was a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for "small businesses" to keep their workers on payroll.

What the public wasn't told was that this program was going to funnel $16.4 billion into the bank accounts of rich law firms who obviously didn't need the money.  Many high-profile law firms around the country received as much as $10 million per firm, and numerous firms received several hundreds of thousands of dollars each.  The law firms who received this are shown here.

The Paycheck Protection Program loans were very generous, as the so called "loans" could be forgiven if at least 60% of the money was used on payroll.  Many of the employees' salaries were $60,000–100,000.  While it is great that the employees were able to earn such impressive salaries, a law firm that could afford to pay such high salaries should hardly have its hand out for donations from the taxpayers to help.  And, as usual, the government is playing games with not being very upfront with the public, as the so called "loans" were reported by the Small Business Association (SBA) as "paid in full," which includes both loans repaid and those "fully forgiven" from repayment under PPP guidelines.

If the so-called "loan" was "fully forgiven," common sense tells us that the loan wasn't repaid.  So how in the world can the government say with a straight face that the so-called "loan" was "paid in full" when in fact it wasn't?

After such deceit upon the public, the rub now is that after the government gave away $16.4 billion of the taxpayers' money to rich law firms, the government prefers that the public doesn't know which law firms didn't repay the so-called "loans," which were "fully forgiven."  These law firms laughed all the way to the bank.

This was a shameful abuse of the taxpayers' money to the highest extent.  Think about it: when the ordinary people of our country seek some relief because of their dire financial situations, such as by applying for food stamps or rent assistance and things like that, or for pauper status in court so filing fee costs can be waived, the government requires the ordinary people, who actually are financially strapped, to disclose their assets by filing affidavits and answering questions.  But when it comes to wealthy millionaire lawyers and their multimillion-dollar law firms, the government doesn't make them disclose their assets.

Something is very wrong with that picture.

In my opinion, government is out of line in taking our tax dollars and handing them over to already rich law firms.  If lawyers and their law firms feel the need to charge the ordinary people of our country ridiculously high fees, then they should pay for their own expenses and not expect to be subsidized by the taxpayers. 

So the next time tax time comes around, and you are writing your check to the government, think about how the government takes your tax money out of your pocket and puts it into the bank accounts of rich law firms all over the country.  It must make Uncle Sam feel really good. 

Brian Vukadinovich is the former executive director of the Posner Center of Justice for Pro Se's and author of the book Motion for Justice: I Rest My Case.

Image: LAWJR via Pixabay, Pixabay License.

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