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McConnell Says Nothing Improper About Coronavirus Loans to Wife's Family Business

Lisa Autry

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is responding to reports that a business belonging to his wife’s family received help from a federal a loan program stemming from the coronavirus. 

According to data released on Monday by the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Foremost Group received at least $350,000 in loans under the Paycheck Protection Program.  The shipping business is owned by the family of Sen. McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao.

The PPP offers forgivable loans to small companies struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The exact amount of the loan to Chao’s family business wasn’t published, but the SBA said it was between $350,ooo and $1 million.  During a stop in Franklin on Tuesday, McConnell said he had no direct involvement in allocation of the loans.

“Neither my wife nor I have anything to do with that business, and didn’t know anything about it," McConnell said emphatically.

Chao’s ties to the family business prompted an ethics investigation by the U.S. House before she stepped into her current role as U.S. Transportation Secretary. 

According to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the average loan size under PPP was $100,000.  But the SBA says some loan amounts reached as high as $10 million.

A five-week extension of the Paycheck Protection Program was passed by Congress and signed by the President.  The extension will give small businesses until Aug. 8 to apply for the remaining PPP funding, estimated at $130 billion. More than 46,000 Kentucky businesses have received PPP loans valued at $5.2 billion.

McConnell spoke in Franklin on Tuesday where he also announced that law enforcement agencies in three Kentucky counties will gain more federal support in combating the illicit drug trade.  Logan, Simpson, and Clark counties are now included in the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program. 

The designation provides federal assistance to local police with coordination, equipment, technology, and other resources.  McConnell said the designation comes at a critical time.

“We had a 25 percent spike in fatal overdoses in the first quarter of this year, and my guess is, that hasn’t gone down during the pandemic," McConnell said. "Spousal abuse is up. Substance abuse is up. Being cooped up created a whole different set of problems.”

Logan, Simpson, and Clark counties are among 15 counties nationwide to receive new HIDTA designations this year. 

The counties were selected based on their proximity to metropolitan areas and federal interstates that bring increased drug trafficking.

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.
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