A Pennsylvania congressman received as much as $1 million in federal coronavirus relief loans for his car dealerships, according to records released Monday.
U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, a Butler County Republican who represents a northwest Pennsylvania district that includes Erie, owns car dealerships outside Pittsburgh. Three entities associated with his business — Mike Kelly Automotive Group Inc., Mike Kelly Automotive LP, and Mike Kelly Hyundai Inc. — each received federal loans ranging between $150,000 and $350,000, Treasury Department records show.
Kelly’s businesses received the government-backed loans in April under the $660 billion Paycheck Protection Program enacted by Congress and President Donald Trump as part of the government’s pandemic relief legislation. The loans are forgivable if businesses spend the money on payroll costs to avoid layoffs, as well as other eligible expenses.
The loans helped retain 95 jobs at Kelly’s business, according to Treasury data.
The loans to Kelly’s businesses were disclosed in a batch of PPP data released by the Trump administration under pressure from Congress. A centerpiece of the federal government’s efforts to protect small businesses and their employees amid the economic wreckage of the coronavirus pandemic, the program has been criticized for making it easier for big businesses to get fast cash than for smaller mom-and-pops.
Members of Congress were not prohibited from receiving the federal aid, but some have drawn scrutiny for benefiting from a law they passed. Politico reported last month that at least four members, from both parties, have ties to companies that won approval for loans.
Andrew Eisenberger, a spokesperson for Kelly, said that in accordance with congressional ethics rules, Kelly “is not involved in the day-to-day operations of his auto dealerships and was not part of the discussions between the business and the PPP lender.”
“Moreover, Kelly’s small family business employs more than 200 western Pennsylvanians whose jobs were at risk because of Governor [Tom] Wolf’s business shut down order,” Eisenberger said in a statement.
The precise amount of the loans to Kelly’s businesses wasn’t clear Monday, as Treasury figures only provided ranges.
Kelly was the 46th wealthiest member of Congress as of 2018, putting him in the top 10%, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, with total assets and liabilities that average about $12.4 million (members of Congress are only required to report assets in wide ranges). On his 2018 financial-disclosure form, Kelly reported receiving business income between $15,001 and $50,000 from Kelly Automotive. He said his salary for Kelly Chevrolet Cadillac was $23,842.
“The Paycheck Protection Program was designed to sustain the income of workers who would otherwise have been without pay or employment at no fault of their own during the coronavirus pandemic,” Eisenberger said, “and organizations in which members of Congress have an ownership stake were not prohibited from receiving PPP loans to help their employees during this difficult time.”