BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Law firms, doctors offices, engineering firms, all sorts of private companies and nonprofits rushed to get Paycheck Protection Program loans totaling more than $510 billion so far, to save jobs endangered by the pandemic and its hit to the economy.
“We saw all kinds of businesses across the board applying for the PPP loans,” says Melissa Chang, a research analyst for stimulus watchdog group Good Jobs First.
We found some charter schools in Alabama also applied for and got PPP loans to save jobs at those schools, an action that is perfectly legal but the subject of some criticism from public education advocates.
“You have charter schools getting public money, then you have them getting money intended for private businesses,” says Chang. “So they’re sort of walking that line again.”
Charter schools have access to two pots of money: their nonprofit companies that run the schools can apply for and get PPP money to help save jobs. They also get public education funding because their students are considered public school students, giving them access to the $13 billion in CARES Act funds earmarked for public K-12 education.
City and county school systems didn’t have the option to ask for PPP money.
“It really raises questions of ‘Which one are you?’” asks Chang. “You can’t be both.”
The two Alabama charter schools we found getting PPP money were Legacy Prep in Birmingham that received between $150,000 and $350,000 in PPP loans to save 23 jobs, and University Charter School in Livingston that received between $350,000 and $1 million to save or support 66 jobs.
We reached out to both schools to ask for the specific amount of PPP funding they received and their response to critics who question the move, and are still waiting for their response.