A company belonging to Kanye West received millions in loans from a federal coronavirus stimulus package, raising questions about potential conflicts of interest given the rapper’s ties to the Trump administration.
On Monday, the US Small Business Administration released data on more than 40,000 companies that received loans of $150,000 or more under the payroll protection program (PPP). As first reported by the Daily Beast, Yeezy LLC, a company established in Delaware but operated in California, received between $2m and $5m.
PPP loans are available for companies with fewer than 500 employees. They are voided if companies spend the money on eligible costs and retain staff during the coronavirus pandemic. Loans are reduced if a company cuts full-time employees, or pay by more than 25%. According to a survey by CNBC, only a small fraction of applications have been successful.
West has been a vocal supporter of Donald Trump. Along with his wife, the reality TV star and beauty brand owner Kim Kardashian West, he has worked with the administration on criminal justice reform and black voter outreach.
The Guardian contacted representatives for the rapper and Yeezy LLC with requests for comment.
The loan program, part of the $2tn Cares Act, has faced extensive criticism. Calls have grown for investigations into technical glitches and accusations of racial disparities among approvals. The list of recipients was only made public following transparency complaints from Democrats.
The Beast also reported that at least three businesses connected to Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, were granted PPP loans worth millions. Other family members and large corporations also received money.
Major brands and institutions, including Shake Shack and Harvard University, have been forced to return loans following public outcry and amid reports of banks favoring wealthy customers or companies publicly supportive of the administration’s coronavirus response.
West recently tweeted congratulations to his wife on becoming a billionaire. Despite a recent acquisition of her beauty brand by Coty, Forbes reported that Kardashian West is in fact worth $900m.
West turned around a financially strained music empire through the launch of a sneaker and clothing brand. His assent to claimed billionaire status is largely aided by a newly announced partnership with the clothing retailer Gap.
Last week, West announced his candidacy for president, via Twitter. But the rapper has not filed any required federal paperwork and is already too late to appear on some state ballots. The announcement was largely met with mockery.