Florida Congressman urges SBA to scrutinize forgiveness of loans intended for small businesses, cites Hyatt Jacksonville

Jacksonville hotel, currently under boycott, terminated 122 workers after receiving millions in Paycheck Protection Program loans

Jacksonville, Florida — U.S. Rep. Al Lawson (FL-05) is urging the Small Business Administration (SBA) to ensure businesses who received forgiveness of Paycheck Protection Program loans used the funds for payroll as Congress intended. In a recent letter to the SBA, the congressman questioned millions in loans directed to Westmont Hospitality Group, a large hotel owner whose affiliate owns Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront and which terminated 122 workers after receiving the first of two PPP loans.

The letter dated June 9 states that Hyatt Jacksonville terminated 120 hotel workers six weeks after the owner was approved for a $3.49 million PPP loan during the pandemic. More workers were terminated before the owner was approved for a second PPP loan of $2 million. Recipients of PPP loans were required to spend 60% of loan proceeds on payroll costs to justify loan forgiveness.

“It concerns me that public funds directed to the owner of Hyatt Jacksonville may not have benefited those who truly needed it. I believe strong transparency and oversight are needed to ensure that companies who can demonstrate how they protected workers’ jobs receive forgiveness of PPP loans,” wrote Rep. Lawson.

In the letter, Lawson asked the SBA to account for how much of the hotel’s PPP loans actually went to payroll costs and whether those funds were used to pay for the hotel’s renovations. The hotel spent millions to renovate its meeting and event space last year. The SBA originally intended to review all loans of $2 million or more but will now review loans after they have been forgiven.  Rep. Lawson encouraged the SBA to review borrowers like Westmont Hospitality which received more than $2 million in PPP loans. Westmont affiliates took over $48 million in PPP loans across the U.S.

Rep. Lawson joins other U.S. representatives who have raised concerns about the PPP loan compliance process and have urged the SBA to update Members of Congress on its plans to ensure loans were properly forgiven. In March, Members of Congress expressed concerns over PPP loans granted to large hospitality employers and called on SBA to increase transparency and oversight of its loan forgiveness process.

This month, hospitality workers union UNITE HERE Local 40 launched a customer boycott against the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront hotel in response to the pandemic terminations. The AFL-CIO has endorsed the boycott.

To view the letter, click here.

Media contact: Stephanie Fung, sfung@unitehere40.org, 604-928-7356.

UNITE HERE Local 40 is an affiliate of UNITE HERE International Union. UNITE HERE is the hospitality workers’ union in the U.S. and Canada that represents hundreds of thousands of workers in hotels, gaming, restaurants and food service, and airports, including more than 30,000 workers across the state of Florida.