Analysis

Fossil fuel firms tended to get more, do less in 'small-business' bailout

U.S. Capitol Building

Fossil fuel companies were more likely to receive the biggest bailouts from the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program, a new BailoutWatch analysis has found. Yet they accomplished less to advance the program's core goal of stemming unemployment.

BailoutWatch previously identified more than 6,000 firms directly involved in the fossil fuel business as having received loans between $150,000 and $10 million each from the program. Those companies reported saving fewer jobs, on average, than companies outside the sector, the new analysis found.

The Small Business Administration on Monday released the names of some companies that received up to $10 million from its Paycheck Protection Program. The program, part of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act coronavirus emergency package, is designed to cover small business' payrolls to ease the effects of the current recession. In order to keep the money, companies have to use it on payroll or other core expenses.

As the SBA reported loan sizes in broad categories, it's impossible to say exactly how much any one company received. The biggest loans were between $5 to $10 million. Less than 1% of all the loans fell in this group, yet 2.7% of the fossil fuel companies participating got the big loans.

Across all loan sizes, fossil fuel companies reported retaining fewer jobs than the economy-wide average. At the $5 to $10 million level, these companies reported saving an average of 319 jobs, compared with an average of 361 jobs saved across all companies that got more than $5 million.

The difference was even starker for companies that got smaller loans. Fossil fuel companies receiving loans between $2 and $5 million and between $350,000 and $1 million reported saving about 25% fewer jobs than the program average.

Some of the companies' reports about how many jobs they retained raise questions. More than 300 of the fossil fuel companies reported preserving no jobs at all. Many said they saved exactly 500. Companies with more than 500 employees were not eligible to receive the money.

BailoutWatch's analyzed companies within 25 industry categories associated with fossil fuel extraction and distribution. The government's data did not include loans to companies that received less than $150,000. News organizations have sued to force the release of data on smaller loans.

The government is implementing numerous other programs, including finance facilities and rule rollbacks, that will benefit fossil fuel companies under the guise of pandemic assistance.

BailoutWatch previously reported that at least seven companies got PPP money after ripping off the government on fees they owed to drill on public land.