BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - How does the government spend almost $2 trillion of your money? That’s the question we set out to get our arms around, and tracking where all of that CARES act money went starts with digging into databases like the one provided by government watchdog group Good Jobs First.
They found several Alabama companies getting federal dollars who had also been in federal trouble.
“You’ll see there are quite a few companies who got PPP loans but paid quite hefty fines for wage and hour violations or OSHA in the last couple of years,” reports research analyst Melissa Change.
Their stimulus watch database found 683 paycheck protection loans of at least $150,000 to Alabama companies. Those $658 million worth of loans went to companies who paid a combined $15 million in fines for violating federal regulations in the past decade.
Nationally, Good Jobs First found 222 healthcare providers who got CARES act funding who’ve paid $5 billion in fines and settlements for violating the False Claims Act over the last decade, with the Stimulus Tracker site finding the biggest single offender in terms of penalties being Tenet Healthcare, parent of Brookwood, Princeton, Shelby, and Walker Baptist Hospitals. Good Jobs First reports Tenet paid more than $600 million in fines since 2010.
With the prospect of another stimulus package in the next few weeks, Good Jobs First researchers say these records should encourage federal agencies to be careful with how they hand out more money.
“As we move through the process we’re seeing all these things and I don’t think, if we were to do this all again, it would be a problem to have all of these checks or other verifications in place going forward,” Chang says. “Having those checks in place makes sure there is more money in place for the small businesses that are probably hurting the most right now.”
The federal government also sent millions to local universities, including more than $26 million to Alabama’s community college system where Calhoun Community College got more than $2 million dollars in higher education relief grants that they tell us they gave directly to students affected by the pandemic in the spring semester.
We got similar answers when we checked with 7 other local community colleges who said they used the money to refund student fees or buy remote learning technology to help finish the semester.
Here is a link to the Good Jobs First Stimulus Tracker.
Here is a link to the database’s search of CARES Act Money for the state of Alabama.
Here is the summary of the database researcher’s findings about companies who got CARES Act money who also have faced federal fines.