[image-1] U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham says he was “glad to see” a community group for homeowners in one of South Carolina’s most affluent towns “do the right thing” in returning a $1 million loan intended to help small businesses struggling during the coronavirus pandemic.
Cunningham initially requested that the Kiawah Island Community Association return the money on Thursday morning. By the end of the day, the group’s board had voted to return the money.
The Kiawah Island Community Association reportedly applied for and received the loan as part of the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, one of the relief programs set up to buoy businesses in the economic downturn related to the coronavirus.
“I am incredibly disappointed that Kiawah Island Community Association took advantage of a program that was designed to offer a lifeline to struggling small businesses,” Cunningham said in a press release early Thursday.
In a follow-up statement Thursday evening, Cunningham said, “I’m glad to see Kiawah Island Community Association do the right thing and return the $1 million PPP loan they received.”
[image-2] “Congress approved the spending of billions of dollars in taxpayer money to help small businesses weather this storm and keep paychecks going to their employees, not pad the pocketbooks of giant corporations or wealthy community associations that have millions of dollars in reserve,” Cunningham said.
The Kiawah association reported $13.61 million in available funds at the end of 2019, according to financial statements posted on its website.
“The board voted to return the loan because we understand that our sacrifices will be significantly less than small business owners who are struggling to survive,” the the association’s board chair Diana Mezzanotte said in a letter to homeowners on Thursday.
The Paycheck Protection Program was passed by Congress last month as part of a $2 trillion emergency economic relief package to help struggling businesses with losses connected to public health measures designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
The Town of Kiawah Island is one of the most wealthy in South Carolina, with a median household income of more than $143,000 — nearly three times the state median of $51,015 per household.
The secluded town attracts high-profile and affluent visitors and residents. Former Vice President Joe Biden is a repeat visitor, and former Gov. Nikki Haley bought a house on the island in 2019.