The Trump administration is telling Planned Parenthood affiliates to return loans obtained under a government aid program.
The Trump administration is trying to claw back some of the $80 million in coronavirus relief received by Planned Parenthood affiliates across the country as part of a program to offset financial losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A number of the affiliates received letters from the Small Business Administration claiming that it had found the groups "ineligible" for loans from the Paycheck Protection Program, created by Congress to help businesses stay afloat and pay their employees when they're closed under coronavirus stay-at-home orders.
The move is the latest attempt by the Trump administration to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides a wide range of health care services to women and men across the country. Conservatives have long targeted the organization for performing abortions and providing abortion referrals.
The Trump administration and other Republican lawmakers are taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic in working to eliminate abortion access. GOP governors have tried to use fear of the coronavirus to ban abortion services, and House Republicans are trying to strip abortion coverage from some stop-gap private health care plans Americans can purchase when they lose their employer-sponsored coverage.
Planned Parenthood affiliates across the country are facing the same financial strain as other small businesses, with stay-at-home orders forcing the cancellation of some in-person health services and making fundraising difficult.
To offset the lost revenue, Planned Parenthood affiliates applied for and received loans under the Paycheck Protection Program. Organizations with more than 500 employees, such as Planned Parenthood Federation of America, are not eligible to receive loans under the program; however, the Planned Parenthood affiliates that applied for the loans operate independently, with far fewer employees.
Other similarly structured organizations received PPP loans that were not challenged.
News that the SBA was trying to take back the PPP loans first leaked on Fox News host Tucker Carlson's show before any Planned Parenthood affiliates received the letter, according to a source with knowledge of the timing.
More than two dozen Senate Republicans have supported the effort, but took it a step further by demanding Attorney General William Barr investigate Planned Parenthood for applying for the loans.
"We write to urge you to investigate the activities of dozens of Planned Parenthood affiliates that reportedly applied for and received approximately $80 million in loans from the Paycheck Protection Program, despite actual knowledge that they were ineligible for such loans," the GOP senators wrote in a letter to Barr. "It was not designed to give government funds to politicized, partisan abortion providers like Planned Parenthood."
Jacqueline Ayers, vice president of government relations and public policy at the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said the effort is "a clear political attack on Planned Parenthood health centers and access to reproductive health care."
"It has nothing to do with Planned Parenthood health care organizations' eligibility for COVID-19 relief efforts, and everything to do with the Trump administration using a public health crisis to advance a political agenda and distract from their own failures in protecting the American public from the spread of COVID-19," Ayers said in a statement.
And 41 Democratic senators condemned the Trump administration's attempt to take the money back, echoing the accusations that this is a politically motivated attack.
"We ask that the SBA stop ideologically-driven action against Planned Parenthood organizations through the unequal application of the affiliation rule in order to score political points for this administration by attacking nonprofit health care providers," the Democratic senators wrote in a letter to the SBA on Saturday.
The results of a poll conducted by Navigator Research that were released May 15 find that 65% of registered voters, including 51% of Republican voters, agree that "Politicians should not be fighting over issues like abortion amidst the ongoing pandemic, and should avoid doing anything to restrict women's access to time-sensitive reproductive care."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.