Which Michigan businesses got federal COVID-19 cash?

List includes lawmaker-tied companies, yacht clubs, universities

By: and - July 7, 2020 5:39 pm

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About 121,000 Michigan businesses, nonprofit organizations and other entities received COVID-19 relief aid via Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, according to data released Monday by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Among the entities receiving money: colleges and universities, politician-owned firms and manufacturers, churches and parishes, art institutions and even an abundance of yacht clubs.

Almost 20,000 of those businesses received loans of more than $150,000. More than 2,700 businesses in the state borrowed about $1 million from the program, which was established in March when Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Approximately 821 Michigan organizations took between $2 million and $5 million and 185 entities took between $5 million and $10 million, respectively. 

The $659 billion PPP is implemented by the Small Business Administration (SBA) and supported by the Treasury Department. Per the SBA, PPP loans are forgivable if a majority of the funding is used to keep employees on a business’s payroll and the rest is used for eligible expenses such as rent or utilities. 


The data also indicates which businesses and organizations tied to Michigan politicians or political groups received loans.

Between $1 million and $2 million went to Renaissance Global Logistics LLC, a logistics solutions company in Detroit. John James, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, is the CEO of that company. He will face U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) in November. A spokesperson for James did not respond to a request for comment. 

Another amount between $1 million and $2 million went to Orbitform, a Jackson-based assembly equipment manufacturing company owned by state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake). Notably, Shirkey has been outspoken against federal bailouts for Michigan in the wake of the state’s massive revenue losses while other lawmakers have pushed for more federal help.

A spokesperson for Shirkey did not respond to a request for comment.


The Southfield-based Vesco Oil Corp. received between $2 million and $5 million. Vesco Oil is co-owned by Lena Epstein, who in 2018 ran as a Republican to represent Michigan’s 11th district in the U.S. House. She lost to now-U.S. Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Rochester Hills).

Progress Michigan, a liberal nonprofit organization, borrowed between $150,000 and $350,000. Planned Parenthood of Michigan borrowed between $2 million and $5 million. 

Signature Associates, a real estate firm also based in Southfield, received between $350,000 and $1 million. State Rep. Jason Sheppard (R-Temperance) is a senior associate at the firm.

Brann’s Steakhouse, a Michigan restaurant chain owned by state Rep. Tommy Brann (R-Wyoming), received between $150,000 and $350,000.

Albion College, Detroit Manufacturing Systems, Motor City Electric Co., the Michigan Education Association (MEA), the Interlochen Center for the Arts and Crain Communications, which owns Crain’s Detroit, received loans ranging from $5 million to $10 million. 


Alma College, Aquinas College, Alpena Community College, the Archdiocese of Detroit, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, DTN Management Co., Goodwill Industries in Detroit and Grand Rapids, Siena Heights University, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Bay Mills Indian Community and the Michigan Humane Society all borrowed between $2 million and $5 million.

Chardam Gear Co., a manufacturer that makes parts to be used in military and commercial aircraft, also received between $2 million and $5 million. Vice President Mike Pence toured the company during a June swing through Michigan.

Olivet College and Rochester University received between $1 million and $2 million. The Sam Bernstein Law Firm — where Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein practiced law before his election to the court in 2014 — also received that amount. His brother, University of Michigan Regent Mark Bernstein, still practices there.

More than 200 churches and parishes throughout the state were recipients of federal loans, running the gamut from the $150,000 to $350,000 range all the way up to the $1 million to $2 million bracket.

Companies with ties to Michigan’s oil and natural gas industry also received hefty federal loans. American Gas & Oil received $2 to $5 million, while Great Lakes Petroleum Transportation LLC received $1 million to $2 million. More than a dozen other petroleum, propane and natural gas companies also borrowed federal dollars.


The joint venture between Livonia-based Jay Dee Contractors Inc. and Japan-based Obayashi Corp. received $350,000 to $1 million. That joint venture was hired by Canadian oil company Enbridge this year to construct the planned tunnel-encased Line 5 oil pipeline under the Straits of Mackinac.

Many yacht clubs from Grosse Pointe all the way up to Bay Harbor also received a range of federal dollars. One yacht manufacturing company in Holland, S2 Yachts Inc., received between $5 million to $10 million in aid.

The SBA resumed taking loan applications July 6 after President Trump signed legislation extending the PPP. A new deadline to apply for those  loans is Aug. 8.

Raw PPP loan amount data for entities in Michigan and all states and territories can be found in the Treasury Department’s database.

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C.J. Moore
C.J. Moore

C.J. Moore covers the environment and the Capitol. She previously worked at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland as a public affairs staff science writer. She also previously covered crop sustainability and coal pollution issues for Great Lakes Echo. In addition, she served as editor in chief at The State News and covered its academics and research beat. She is a journalism graduate student at Michigan State University.

Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service. When Laina is not writing or spending time with her cats, she loves art and design, listening to music, playing piano, enjoying good food and being out in nature (especially Up North).