SC law firms, churches, builders, sports teams received major federal COVID-19 lifelines

A federal program billed as a financial lifeline for small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic also dispersed millions in South Carolina to high-powered law firms, major construction companies and global manufacturers, according to data released last week.

The U.S. Small Business Administration release, representing the first peek at the $660 billion loan program, has re-ignited questions over whether the money really reached those in need. It shows 7,600 South Carolina companies received at least $150,000. Companies given less weren’t listed, though the smaller amounts make up more than 80 percent of the loans approved so far.

In all, more than $5.7 billion has been doled out to South Carolina companies, according to the agency. That’s roughly 70 percent of the state’s current annual budget.

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, who called for better guidance of the program’s ambiguous terms, has said he wants to ensure any future relief phases focus on the small businesses that haven’t been able to access the money.

“The dollars that were spent saved tens of millions of jobs, plain and simple. It is absolutely essential we keep small businesses running and folks employed,” said his spokesman, Sean Smith.


About 150 churches across South Carolina received PPP loans totaling as much as $87.5 million. Almost three-fourths of them received amounts in the lowest reported range of $150,000 to $350,000. They were made eligible for the program thanks to Sen. Scott.

“Adding houses of worship and non-profit organizations was an important piece of the puzzle — not only to keep their employees working, but to ensure the good work done by these groups could continue through the pandemic,” said his spokesman. 

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