The Hamburglar’s Restitution

The Paycheck Protection Program was one of the most promising pandemic economic policies. Small businesses could get loans that would ultimately become grants if they kept their employees employed. The program was understandably popular and it ran out of money quickly. Part of that was demand. Part of it was that too much of the money went to businesses that weren’t small, and more importantly, had access to other cash infusions. Shake Shack, a publicly traded company with a $1.7 billion valuation, was one of the recipients of Paycheck Protection money – to the tune of $10 million. After raising money the old fashioned way (selling $150 million of shares on the public market), Shake Shack gave the loan back. “Our people would benefit from a $10 million PPP loan, but we’re fortunate to now have access to capital that others do not. Until every restaurant that needs it has had the same opportunity to receive assistance, we’re returning ours.” While Shake Shack had access to other capital and was in part responding to a public outcry, they deserve credit for giving the credit back; a move that these days, has to be viewed as a bit of a whopper. Lawmakers are working on a deal to make a lot more Paycheck Protection money available. But like many things at this uncertain, and unprecedented, moment, timing is everything. Small businesses need to still have employees to keep them.

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