Louisiana business grant program helped 20k companies while attracting 107 alleged frauds


    House passes qualified immunity bill
    Louisiana legislators convene in the House of Representatives chambers at the State Capitol during the 2020 special session. (Wes Muller/LA Illuminator. Wednesday Sept. 30, 2020)

    Louisiana’s Main Street Recovery Grant Program, a business assistance fund that state GOP lawmakers created last year with $275 million of pandemic-relief money intended for local governments, ended Thursday after issuing $262 million in grants to 20,751 small businesses, according to a press release from State Treasurer John M. Schroder. There were also 107 applications for money that the treasurer considers “cases of fraud.”

    Schroder boasted about some of the program’s milestones, such as providing four times the number of grants required by law to businesses owned by minorities, veterans or women, and helping small businesses in all 64 parishes. He also referred a number of suspected fraudulent applications to the state’s inspector general. 

    “To date, 107 applications have been turned over to the Office of the Inspector General for investigation,” the press release stated. “Updated Paycheck Protection Program data received in December flagged instances in which people received money but shouldn’t have.”

    Nothing further was mentioned about the alleged fraud, but the Illuminator has requested additional details and will follow up on this story when that information becomes available.

    The Main Street Recovery Program was funded with money Republican lawmakers carved out of the $800 million in COVID-19 relief money that Gov. John Bel Edwards intended to disburse to local governments.

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    Wesley Muller
    Wes Muller traces his journalism roots back to 1997 when, at age 13, he built and launched a hyper-local news website for his New Orleans neighborhood. In the following 22 years since then, he has worked as a journalist for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans, the Sun Herald in Biloxi, WAFB-9News CBS in Baton Rouge, and the Enterprise-Journal in McComb, Mississippi. Much of his work has involved reporting on First Amendment issues and watchdog coverage of municipal and state government. He has received several honors and recognitions, including McClatchy's National President's Award, the Associated Press Freedom of Information Award, and the Daniel M. Phillips Freedom of Information Award from the Mississippi Press Association, among others. Muller is a New Orleans native, a Jesuit High School alumnus, a University of New Orleans alumnus, a veteran U.S. Army paratrooper, and an adjunct English teacher at Baton Rouge Community College. He lives in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, with his teenage son and his wife, who is also a journalist.