'The epitome of hypocrisy’: 17 Tennessee Republicans accepted PPP loans — but want to slash unemployment benefits

'The epitome of hypocrisy’: 17 Tennessee Republicans accepted PPP loans — but want to slash unemployment benefits
Sen. Jon Lundberg, image via Screengrab.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, liberal economists such as Robert Reich (former secretary of labor in the Clinton Administration) and the New York Times' Paul Krugman have applauded enhanced unemployment benefits as good for the U.S. economy — stressing that those who receive that money are likely to spend it immediately. Republicans, however, have been claiming that enhanced unemployment benefits from the CARES Act of 2020 or the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 encourage Americans not to look for work. But in Tennessee, according to reporter Jackie DelPilar, some of the same Republicans who now rail against unemployment benefits received payments from the CARES Act's Paycheck Protection Program.

Reporting for Fox 17 Nashville, DelPilar explains, "A FOX 17 News investigation found 17 state lawmakers who supported the unemployment cuts also accepted PPP loans for their businesses. They accepted a combined $12.4 million."

Rep. Gloria Johnson, a Democrat who serves in the Tennessee House of Representatives, is calling out the hypocrisy of those lawmakers. DelPilar quotes Johnson as saying, "That's wrong on so many levels…. It is the epitome of hypocrisy to say 'I'm going to get this federal help, but you don't deserve it. You need to go back to work.'"

Republicans in the Tennessee State Legislature who accepted PPP money but are now pushing to cut off Tennessee residents from enhanced unemployment benefits, according to DelPilar, include Sen. Jon Lundberg, Rep. Jeremy Faison, Rep. Kevin Vaughan, Rep. Jerry Sexton and Rep. Eddie Mannis. Sexton, DelPilar reports, "accepted a total of $2.2 million for his three businesses." And Lundberg, the CEO of Corporate Image (a public relations firm in Tennessee), applied for a PPP loan in 2020 — giving his company "$271,000 in government help," according to DelPilar.

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