Major hotel group to return millions in PPP funding

Ashford Inc., a large hospitality conglomerate that received nearly $70 million from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) included in the $2.2 trillion stimulus package passed in March, said Saturday that it would be returning the money.

The company encompasses a sizable network of hotels and resorts, and its subsidiaries applied for $126 million in loans being offered through the PPP, The New York Times reports.

The news marks a change in the group’s stance on the issue. Previously, the company said that it wouldn’t be returning the money, and underscored that concerns over large corporations receiving loans from the program were “misplaced.” 

Multiple lawmakers called for Ashford to return the money, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerMajor hotel group to return millions in PPP funding Pelosi and Schumer call for economic relief for citizens married to foreign nationals Senate faces protracted floor fight over judges amid pandemic safety concerns MORE (D-N.Y.) calling for an investigation into the company’s loans.

Last week Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinMajor hotel group to return millions in PPP funding WH official says Trump believes K-12 private schools should give back PPP funds Trump sparks fight over IRS relief payments MORE along with the Small Business Administration – which is involved in the distribution of the loans – issued an advisory that stated large companies such as Ashford should return the money that they received by May 7.

In its statement, Ashford cited this new guideline as a reason for returning the funding .

“While we believed then and continue to believe today that we qualify for PPP loans based on the legislation and rule-making in place at the time our applications were submitted, continuous SBA rule changes and evolving opinions by Administration officials have led us to conclude that we may no longer qualify,” the company said.

Ashford’s CEO and chairman is Monty Bennett, a staunch conservative who donated heavily to President TrumpDonald John TrumpMajor hotel group to return millions in PPP funding Trump administration’s ‘Operation Warp Speed’ looking at 14 potential COVID-19 vaccines to fast-track Tlaib, Lowenthal pen op-ed asking Trump administration to release aid to Palestinians to fight COVID-19 MORE‘s 2016 presidential campaign. For this election cycle, Bennett has already donated over $150,000 to Trump’s re-election campaign, according to the Times.

In a statement, Bennett called on the federal government to aid the hotel industry, a part of the economy that has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic as travel has ceased. 

“We call on Congress, the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve to provide assistance to the hotel industry to protect jobs and asset values that have been severely impaired as a result of the pandemic and the government’s actions that have followed,” Bennett said.

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