When I wrote that the National Education Association and its state affiliates were big business, I got it only half-right. It turns out they are small business, too.
Under public pressure, the federal government released a partial list of fund recipients from the Paycheck Protection Program, a project created as part of a package of economic relief for businesses suffering under COVID-19 shutdowns. Managed by the Small Business Administration, the program is “designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll.” If the money is used for that purpose, the low-interest loan will be forgiven.
The definition of “small business” turned out to be an expansive one. It didn’t take reporters long to discover that 16 billionaires received the loans, as well as the Catholic Church and, even worse, charter schools.
It’s this last group that led to breathless stories in The New York Timesand The Washington Post, but both newspapers failed to notice that another group also took advantage of government largesse: labor unions.
Unions and their subsidiaries on the government’s list received a minimum of $26 million and may have gotten as much as $51 million. By far the largest recipients among those unions were the Michigan Education Association and the health insurance subsidiary it created, the Michigan Education Special Services Association. They received a combined minimum of $11.4 million.