MADISON – Assembly Speaker Robin Vos received more than $150,000 for his popcorn business as part of a federal program meant to help struggling businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Robin J. Vos Enterprises was awarded between $150,000 and $350,000 in April under the Paycheck Protection Program, according to figures released Monday by the U.S. Treasury Department.
Vos, a Republican from Rochester, used the money to keep his workers employed, said his spokeswoman, Kit Beyer.
More than 85,000 Paycheck Protection Program loans worth nearly $10 billion have been given out in Wisconsin, according to the Small Business Administration. Employers of all types — from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee to abortion and health care provider Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin — received loans in the Badger State, according to a review of the data released Monday.
“His company received one of nearly 700,000 loans (throughout the United States) given to small businesses, which allowed the company to keep its workers employed during these uncertain times,” Beyer said in a statement.
Vos, the longtime speaker of the Assembly, has spent much of his political career advocating for lower taxes, fewer business regulations and limits on public benefit programs.
The Paycheck Protection Program was hastily created by Congress this spring as part of a wide-ranging effort to protect the economy as the coronavirus began to ravage the country and shutter businesses.
The $659 billion program provides loans to businesses, but the businesses don’t have to pay them back if they use them for payroll, rent and other common expenses. The program has faced criticism because some small businesses couldn’t navigate the application process quickly enough to qualify for the first round of funding.
Meanwhile, several hundred companies traded on stock exchanges — hardly the images of small businesses — received loans maxing out at $10 million each, causing a public backlash and leading dozens to return the money.
The records released Monday show employers of all kinds across Wisconsin received help as they saw their revenue dry up. The money is targeted to small businesses, which is generally defined as those with fewer than 500 employees.
More than 1,600 entities in Wisconsin received loans of $1 million or more each.
In all, 12,000 Wisconsin employers received $150,000 or more each, which they said they used to retain 600,000 jobs. (The Treasury Department did not release information about employers that received loans of less than $150,000.)
Among those in Wisconsin receiving the largest amounts — $5 million to $10 million each — were Echo Lake Foods of Burlington, engineering firm Ayres Associates of Eau Claire and Milwaukee law firms Godfrey & Kahn and von Briesen & Roper.
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee and Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin received $2 million to $5 million each.
Receiving at least $1 million each were the Islamic Foundation of Greater Milwaukee, the Overture Center Foundation in Madison, Wausau Homes, the Milwaukee Repertory Theater and two entities associated with Mt. Olympus, the popular waterpark and resort in Wisconsin Dells.
YMCAs across the state received loans, as did car and Harley-Davidson dealers. Numerous craft brewers were awarded grants, including Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee, Ale Asylum in Madison and Central Waters Brewing Co. in Amherst.
Receiving $350,000 to $1 million was the Lucy Burns Institute of Middleton, which operates Ballotpedia, a Wikipedia-style website focused on American politics.
Nearly 900 loans went to nonprofit entities in Wisconsin, including more than 200 churches.
Eric Litke of the Journal Sentinel staff and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Contact Patrick Marley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @patrickdmarley.