Companies that gave back their stimulus loans

Written by:
May 22, 2020
Ramin Talaie // Getty Images

Companies that gave back their stimulus loans

Amid nationwide lockdowns and quarantines during COVID-19, job losses soared, travel was severely restricted, financial markets tossed and turned, and consumer demand for much of anything beyond food and toilet paper took a nosedive. Small businesses, which comprise about half of the nation’s private sector employment, laid off and furloughed workers, slashed salaries, discounted prices, and scrapped capital improvements—frantic measures to cut costs and stay afloat in the crisis that had no end in sight.

Hence the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act , with its Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to keep workers at small businesses employed. The loans distributed by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) through participating banks would be forgiven if three-quarters of the money went to payroll, and companies kept their workforce at or above year-ago levels. The interest rate was 1%.

Congress allocated $349 billion, but the money ran out in less than two weeks—so it added an additional $310 billion. Large companies received huge loans, and small mom-and-pop shops complained that they were turned down flat. The Treasury Department and SBA started issuing dozens of loan guidelines and updates that sent businesses into a tailspin. Borrowers said the rules were changing like sand shifting beneath their feet. The new guidelines said borrowers must certify that their loan request was necessary, given “their ability to access other sources of liquidity.” The Treasury Department said it was “unlikely that a public company with substantial market value and access to capital markets” could prove it needed a loan.

Companies were eventually told they could repay the money without penalty if they had applied in good faith. But loans over $2 million would be reviewed, subjecting companies to the uncomfortable prospect of an audit. An outraged public asked how a giant company like restaurant chain Shake Shack could be considered small. It fits the bill, actually, because while it has a workforce of almost 8,000 people, only about 45 work at each of its 189 U.S. locations. Offered the opportunity to return the loans, dozens of companies did just that. Most concluded the uncertainty and the price of defending themselves was not worth it.

Stacker compiled a list of companies that gave back their stimulus loans, using data from COVID Stimulus Watch as of May 15. The companies are ranked by size of loans received—the biggest of which was $77 million.

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#65. Maui Land & Pineapple Company

- Loan amount: $246,000
- Industry: real estate

Maui Land & Pineapple Company develops and manages residential, resort, and commercial property, including Hawaii’s largest private nature preserve. In an earnings report, it said operations were likely to be affected by business closures, unemployment, financial market instability, and reduced tourism. Hawaii implemented a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine for airport arrivals, including inter-island travelers. The company said it had fewer real estate commissions, less revenue, and less rental income from commercial tenants.

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#64. Enochian BioSciences

- Loan amount: $272,700
- Industry: biotechnology

Enochian BioSciences, based in Los Angeles, returned its loan without making any public comment. The company works to develop gene-modified cell therapies in hopes of preventing, treating, and curing infectious diseases (including HIV) and cancer.

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#63. Helius Medical Technologies

- Loan amount: $323,000
- Industry: medical devices

Just days after getting its loan, Helius, which develops technologies and products for patients with neurological damage, was awarded so-called breakthrough status by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its device to treat walking impairment in multiple sclerosis patients. The company’s stock soared some 70% upon news of the designation, which allows a speeding-up of the device’s development.

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#62. Soleno Therapeutics

- Loan amount: $350,445
- Industry: pharmaceuticals

Soleno Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company, is developing therapies for the treatment of rare diseases, particularly Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS). The major symptom is hyperphagia, a chronic feeling of insatiable hunger, along with cognitive disabilities and developmental delays. Soleno said the health crisis had not left a “meaningful impact” on the development process for PWS therapy, but clinical trials were affected. It returned the loan without any comment to investors on its website.

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#61. BioXcel Therapeutics

- Loan amount: $537,000
- Industry: pharmaceuticals

BioXcel recently held a public stock offering to raise about $64 million for development of a drug that treats acute agitation. It told analysts it was trying to speed up development in hopes of using the drug for elderly COVID patients—especially those on ventilators, suffering delirium.

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#60. Windtree Therapeutics

- Loan amount: $546,600
- Industry: biopharmaceuticals

Windtree Therapeutics, a biotech and medical device company focusing on acute cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases, recently said it was developing plans to study one of its products for treating lung injury from severe COVID-19 infection. It also said it arranged financing for up to $3.9 million for development of its product to treat premature infants with respiratory distress syndrome. It returned the loan without any mention in its most recent earnings report to investors.

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#59. Motus GI Holdings

- Loan amount: $780,942
- Industry: medical devices

Motus GI Holdings, Inc., which just reported a first-quarter loss, makes a medical device to improve visualization during colonoscopies, which was only launched commercially at the end of 2019. In response to COVID-19—particularly the drop in the number of colonoscopies being performed—the company implemented a cost-reduction plan to cut forecast cash expenses by half. It included reductions in project spending and a reduction in headcount in its Israel and U.S. operations.

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#58. Issuer Direct Corporation

- Loan amount: $1.0 million
- Industry: compliance services

Issuer Direct is a maker of communications and compliance technologies and services for corporate users. The company recently upgraded its product platforms so investor conferences and annual shareholder meetings could be held remotely, in real time and in compliance with securities regulations. It said revenue from those products would help offset losses in other parts of its business.

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#57. 22nd Century Group

- Loan amount: $1.2 million
- Industry: low-nicotine tobacco products

22nd Century Group has not said publicly why it returned its $1.2 million loan. It had implemented a round of January job cuts. The plant-biotech company conducts reduced-nicotine tobacco research and development and makes cigarettes with varying levels of nicotine content used in research. It recently announced successful trials for its technology to reduce nicotine in tobacco plants by up to 99%. In response to COVID-19, the company said its R&D lab in Buffalo, New York, was temporarily closed, but its production facility in North Carolina was classified as an essential business and remained operational.

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#56. Nathan's Famous

- Loan amount: $1.2 million
- Industry: restaurants

The iconic hot dog and restaurant company said it was returning its loan in light of the SBA guidance. It said that due to COVID-19, most of its franchised locations were temporarily closed.

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#55. CytoSorbents Corporation

- Loan amount: $1.4 million
- Industry: immunotherapy products

CytoSorbents Corp. makes a drug used to treat cytokine storm—a severe and potentially-deadly immune reaction—in COVID-19 patients in China, Italy, Germany, and Panama. The company got a major boost in mid-April when the FDA authorized the drug, called CytoSorb, for emergency use in critically-ill COVID-19 patients, allowing for it to be sold in the United States.

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#54. Educational Development Corporation

- Loan amount: $1.4 million
- Industry: children's books

Educational Development Corp. said it applied for the loan after sales fell 25% in March, and its warehouse employees and staff began working reduced hours. But it reported that direct-sales business improved dramatically in April, as schools closed and parents shopped for educational materials.

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#53. CHF Solutions

- Loan amount: $1.7 million
- Industry: medical devices

CHF Solutions makes Aquadex SmartFlow, a therapy used to manage fluid overload in COVID patients. Days after getting its loan, the company announced a stock offering to raise about $1.7 million for increasing commercialization and production of Aquadex.

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#52. Micropac Industries

- Loan amount: $1.9 million
- Industry: microelectronic circuits

Micropac makes microelectronics, optoelectronics, sensors, and displays for industrial, medical, aerospace, and military uses. Among its products are light-emitting diodes, or LEDs. Researchers have been looking at use of ultraviolet LEDs to remove coronavirus from surfaces, and possibly air and water.

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#51. DURECT Corporation

- Loan amount: $2.0 million
- Industry: biopharmaceuticals

After getting its loan, DURECT said it was working with the FDA to study the use of one of its drugs to treat COVID patients with acute liver or kidney injury. Those patients are not allowed to be candidates for “many ongoing antiviral trials and are in great need of a new therapy,” it added.

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#50. BioLife Solutions

- Loan amount: $2.2 million
- Industry: biopreservation tools

BioLife Solutions said it decided to repay the loan because of the changed PPP guidance. The developer of products used in cell and tissue storage and cryopreservation freezing said it had implemented salary cuts and other cost reductions, but had no plans to lay off or furlough any employees.

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#49. BK Technologies

- Loan amount: $2.2 million
- Industry: radio communications equipment

The maker of two-way radio communications equipment said it applied for its loan believing that it was eligible for the PPP. The guidance issued later “created uncertainty regarding the qualification requirements,” and it opted to repay it, BK Technologies told investors. It has remained open as an essential business supporting first responders, and said it has implemented initiatives to reduce its workforce and expenses.

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#48. Mannatech

- Loan amount: $2.2 million
- Industry: health supplements

Mannatech is a supplier of health supplements marketed through direct sales. In its most recent statement to investors, it did not mention the PPP loan. It said COVID-19 had affected recruiting and that the number of new sales associates had dropped.

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#47. TransMedics Group

- Loan amount: $2.2 million
- Industry: organ transplant systems

TransMedics Group, which has developed technology to preserve organs used in heart, lung, and liver transplants, said it decided to return its loan after the guidance changed at the end of April. The company said the pandemic has disrupted transplant procedures which are not considered elective but need hospitals to free up resources, such as ICU beds.

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#46. Lantronix

- Loan amount: $2.4 million
- Industry: internet of things products

Lantronix, a provider of management solutions and secure data access, makes products that enhance connectivity. In recent statements, it did not address the return of the loan. The pandemic has affected its supply chain, as much of its manufacturing is done in Malaysia, China, and Thailand, and affected its ability to ship by air freight. It has had increased orders for videoconferencing and medical-related products and services.

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#45. Omega Flex

- Loan amount: $2.5 million
- Industry: metal hose

Omega Flex told investors the company has had no layoffs, adding it experienced an increase in use of its flexible medical gas piping systems, used in part for oxygen, in health care facilities. It also said the future impact of the pandemic would depend on the government’s “uncertain and unpredictable” plans to fight the spread of infection while attempting to restore the economy.

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#44. It Works!

- Loan amount: $2.7 million
- Industry: direct sales

Florida-based It Works!, which sells beauty and nutrition products, said it decided to return the loan after getting a surge in new customers and increased demand for its nutrition and weight-loss products. The company’s founder Mark Pentecost said: "It's a bad storm we're in, but ... our boat is floating pretty good right now."

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#43. inTEST

- Loan amount: $2.8 million
- Industry: testing equipment

The head of inTEST told analysts that the company had applied for the loan, intending to use the money to cover payroll, rent, and utilities. But after the government announced its rule changes, the company opted to repay the loans in full. A number of the changes announced by the Treasury Department concerned loan eligibility and requirements on how the funds could be spent.

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#42. Chembio Diagnostics

- Loan amount: $3.0 million
- Industry: diagnostic products

Chembio Diagnostics cited the government’s guidance in its decision to return its PPP loan. It raised $31 million in a stock offering to increase production of its rapid coronavirus antibody test, using the proceeds to convert production lines to make the test. It said it hopes to produce up to 2 million per month by September.

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#41. Energy Services of America Corporation

- Loan amount: $3.3 million
- Industry: contracting services for energy companies

Energy Services of America Corp., which builds natural gas pipelines, borrowed $13.1 million and opted to return $3.3 million in late-April. A Securities and Exchange Commission filing said the decision was made after the board of directors discussed the financing needs of the company, and that it would use the remaining $9.8 million of the loan to fund its operations.

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#40. Ultralife

- Loan amount: $3.5 million
- Industry: batteries and communications systems

Ultralife produces batteries and energy products that support ventilators, respirators, and other medical equipment and so has remained in operation as an essential business. It said it experienced some disruptions to its supply chain but was investing about $1 million in the second quarter to add testing equipment to meet increased demand.

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#39. PCTEL

- Loan amount: $3.5 million
- Industry: wireless network antennas

A provider of wireless technology, antenna systems, and related products, PCTEL said COVID-19 was affecting its international supply chains. It implemented cuts in salaries, director fees, and discretionary spending, and ended a stock-repurchase program to reduce expenses and conserve cash.

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#38. Neos Therapeutics

- Loan amount: $3.6 million
- Industry: nervous-system-focused pharmaceuticals

Neos Therapeutics develops pharmaceutical products, including a treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It said in early May that it had decided to cut its headcount to lower costs and strengthen its long-term outlook. It did not issue a public statement explaining its decision to return its PPP loan.

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#37. Limoneira Company

- Loan amount: $3.6 million
- Industry: citrus growing

The agribusiness and real estate development company and producer of lemons, oranges, and avocados has not said publicly why it was repaying the $3.6 million loan. Earlier, it had said it would use the funds for payroll and keep 100% of its workforce amid the disruption of COVID-19. It said demand for lemons had dropped more than 50% after the mid-March shelter-in-place order, leaving a significant oversupply.

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#36. VectoIQ Acquisition

- Loan amount: $4.1 million
- Industry: merger vehicle

VectoIQ Acquisition, which specializes in partnering with startups, has not issued a public explanation for returning its loan. It has been involved in merging with Nikola Motor, a privately held company developing zero-emission semi trucks.

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#35. US Auto Parts Network

- Loan amount: $4.1 million
- Industry: online seller of automotive aftermarket parts

The online auto parts company said it applied for the PPP loan to avoid layoffs or furloughs when it saw sales decline dramatically in the first weeks of sheltering in place. However, it decided to return the loan when business picked up with the delivery of stimulus checks, more consumers using e-commerce rather than brick-and-mortar stores to shop for auto parts, and consumers with more time to work on vehicles at home.

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#34. Xeris Pharmaceuticals

- Loan amount: $4.2 million
- Industry: specialty pharmaceuticals

Xeris Pharmaceuticals borrowed $5.1 million but said it decided in light of the SBA guidance to repay $900,000 of the loan. The maker of diabetes medication said it wanted to see that money made available to other small businesses and that it would use the remaining $4.2 million to “retain employees, maintain payroll, and pay rent and utilities.”

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#33. Collectors Universe

- Loan amount: $4.2 million
- Industry: authentication services for collectibles

Collectors Universe, based in Newport Beach, California, said in its recent earnings report that despite COVID-19, it had a strong balance sheet and did not have to lay off any employees. It also said recently it had about $37 million in cash or revolving credit with minimal debt, and that it was working with dealers and collectors of coins, trading cards, and memorabilia who were considering liquidating their collectibles.

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#32. Red Lion Hotels

- Loan amount: $4.2 million
- Industry: hotels

Red Lion Hotels said it returned the PPP loan after determining it did not appear to meet the eligibility requirements laid out in the government's guidance. In response to the economic impact of COVID-19, it has cut staff and salaries among its executives and staff, consolidated office space, suspended non-essential capital expenditures, and instituted measures to support franchisees, such as deferring and reducing fees.

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#31. OptiNose

- Loan amount: $4.4 million
- Industry: pharmaceuticals

By returning its loan, OptiNose, a specialty pharmaceutical company, said it hoped the decision would help more small businesses, including the medical practices it serves. Local media reported that several ear, nose, and throat doctors had told the company they were surprised it merited PPP money when they had failed to get loans of their own. The company told analysts that it was seeing a call for its drug to treat chronic sinusitis in patients who were waiting for elective surgery postponed by COVID-19.

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#30. Los Angeles Lakers

- Loan amount: $4.6 million
- Industry: professional sports team

Amid public uproar, the Los Angeles Lakers returned their PPP loan. A spokeswoman said the basketball team repaid the loan so that funds would go to those who needed it most. The team qualified for the program because its staff of about 300 employees meets the definition of a small business as having a workforce of 500 or less. The Lakers are the eighth most valuable sports franchise in the world, with an estimated $3.7 billion value.

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#29. Natural Gas Services Group

- Loan amount: $4.6 million
- Industry: natural gas services

Natural Gas Services Group issued a statement saying it had applied for its loan with the intention of paying salaries and wages of employees that could be affected by the impact of COVID-19 on business. But it opted to repay the loan after the Treasury Department announced that public companies getting loans could be subject to scrutiny if they had access to alternative sources of capital.

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#28. Aquestive Therapeutics

- Loan amount: $4.8 million
- Industry: pharmaceuticals

The pharmaceutical company returned its loan based on the SBA’s revised guidance. It said it made its decision “Because of the implications of possibly not meeting ill-defined and changing criteria for qualification.”

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#27. Drive Shack

- Loan amount: $5.3 million
- Industry: golf-related leisure venues

The operator of golf entertainment centers returned its loan without making any specific comment. It furloughed more than 4,000 staff members and shut down nearly all its operations at the start of the outbreak. But it said in a recent earnings report that about half of its traditional golf courses were open, and that demand seemed strong because players could maintain social distancing. It reopened a driving range in West Palm Beach with measures to space players in alternate bays and arrange for food servers to keep their distance. It said golf balls would be automatically washed with sanitizer as they are dispensed.

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#26. ADMA Biologics

- Loan amount: $5.4 million
- Industry: biopharmaceuticals

ADMA Biologics makes plasma-derived products to treat immune-deficient patients and others at risk of infection. It did not issue a statement explaining the return of its loan. It told shareholders it is “well-positioned” to weather the current economic challenges.

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#25. Escalade

- Loan amount: $5.6 million
- Industry: sporting goods

Escalade CEO Scott Sincerbeaux said that the company returned the loan because of the changes in guidance issued by the government, as well as faith in consumer demand for its recreation products, such as basketball hoops and cornhole boards. The company did not furlough any employees, although it closed a manufacturing plant in Gainesville, Florida.

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#24. Aviat Networks

- Loan amount: $5.9 million
- Industry: microwave networking systems

Aviat Networks did not issue a public statement regarding its decision to return its PPP loan. To deal with uncertainty stemming from COVID-19, the company suspended its stock buyback program.

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#23. Kura Sushi USA

- Loan amount: $6.0 million
- Industry: Japanese restaurants

Kura Sushi USA, with 25 U.S. rotating-conveyor-belt-style sushi restaurants, said it had hoped to use a PPP loan to rehire the one-third of its staff it had furloughed. But it said it had wrongly assumed the program would have enough funds to go around and so decided to return the money. “Our finances allow us to weather financial hardship for a longer period than independent restaurant owners,” it wrote on its website. “We hope that these funds will be shared equitably among deserving candidates.”

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#22. Harvard Bioscience

- Loan amount: $6.1 million
- Industry: drug development equipment

Harvard Bioscience did not mention its decision to return its loan in a recent statement to investors. It said it implemented steps to manage its cash and ensure continued operations by cutting hours, salaries, and staff.

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#21. Dawson Geophysical Company

- Loan amount: $6.4 million
- Industry: onshore seismic data services

Dawson, which specializes in land seismic data acquisition, said the rules issued by the SBA and the Treasury Department subsequent to receiving its loan had caused uncertainty over the qualification requirements. The Midland, Texas, company said it opted to repay the loan ”Out of an abundance of caution.”

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#20. Ballantyne Strong

- Loan amount: $6.4 million
- Industry: projection screens

Ballantyne Strong has not issued a public statement about its loan decision but said it had drawn almost $3 million CAD on a line of credit that it would combine with expense reductions and furloughs to cut costs. It noted that its customers in the entertainment and advertising industries had been impacted significantly.


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#19. Legacy Housing Corporation

- Loan amount: $6.5 million
- Industry: mobile homes

Kenny Shipley, the head of Legacy, a maker of tiny houses and manufactured homes, said returning the $6.5 million loan was a “difficult decision,” based on the SBA guidelines regarding companies that had alternate sources of capital. Legacy said it has arranged a bank line of credit that would give it access to up to $25 million. It said it had laid off workers, discounted products, and cut salaries before applying for the government assistance.

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#18. Manning & Napier

- Loan amount: $6.7 million
- Industry: investment advisory services

Manning & Napier, an asset and wealth manager, said it had not received its loan but rescinded its application on the basis of the SBA’s revised guidance. It said the guidance indicated the loans were not intended for public companies with actual or potential sources of alternative liquidity and funding.

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#17. WAVE Life Sciences Ltd.

- Loan amount: $7.2 million
- Industry: genetic medicines

WAVE Life Sciences, a biotech company focused on therapies to treat serious genetic diseases, said the guidance from the Treasury Department led it to return the loan. A spokeswoman said the decision came after understanding the guidelines to mean public companies were not “appropriate recipients” of the money.

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#16. Hallmark Financial

- Loan amount: $8.3 million
- Industry: property/casualty insurance

Hallmark Financial repaid its loan without issuing a public statement explaining its decision. The Texas-based insurer “markets, underwrites, and services” commercial and personal insurance premiums.

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#15. CalAmp Corp.

- Loan amount: $10.0 million
- Industry: telematics

CalAmp Corp., which develops telematics that combine information technology with telecommunications, said it had believed that, when it applied for the loan, it had qualified for the assistance. In light of the guidelines issued by the SBA, it announced it would return the money.

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#14. IDT Corporation

- Loan amount: $10.0 million
- Industry: telecommunications services

IDT, a telecommunications company, said it would return its loan to make the funds available to other borrowers ”that may be in greater need.” It said it had planned to use the loan to pay salaries to its telecom sales force and distribution teams facing a drop in retail demand.

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#13. MiMedx Group

- Loan amount: $10.0 million
- Industry: therapeutic biologics

The skin-graft products and therapeutic biologics company MiMedx Group said it had planned to use its loan to maintain full employment while its business was negatively impacted by the pandemic. It said it has implemented cost containment practices such as salary cuts to avoid layoffs.


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#12. PDC Energy

- Loan amount: $10.0 million
- Industry: petroleum exploration and production

Denver-based PDC Energy said it returned its loan based upon the revised guidelines issued by the government. In response to the economic impacts of the pandemic, it said it has cut its planned capital investments and that it was operating fewer rigs, implementing pay cuts, and reducing office space.

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#11. Potbelly Corporation

- Loan amount: $10.0 million
- Industry: sandwich shops

Potbelly Corp. announced it would return its loan in the wake of public outrage over money meant for small businesses going to large public companies. The company said it was “surprised and disappointed when the fund was quickly exhausted, leaving many without help.” It also said its sales had dropped dramatically and that it had furloughed employees, closed shops, and cut salaries significantly.

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#10. Shake Shack

- Loan amount: $10.0 million
- Industry: restaurants

In returning its loan, Shake Shack, which has 189 U.S. restaurants, criticized the government plan for being underfunded, pitting restaurants against one another, and failing to provide help to the businesses that had less access to outside funding. “Until every restaurant that needs it has had the same opportunity to receive assistance, we’re returning ours,” it said in an open letter. Shake Shack, valued at more than $1.6 billion, instead was able to raise $150 million of equity capital.

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#9. Sweetgreen

- Loan amount: $10.0 million
- Industry: fast casual restaurants

The national salad chain Sweetgreen issued an open letter explaining that it returned its loan when it learned that the program’s funding had run out and that “many small businesses and friends in the industry” in need did not receive any money. “If this crisis has taught us anything, it is that we are all in this together,” the company wrote.

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#8. Ashford

- Loan amount: $13.0 million
- Industry: hospitality advisory services

Ashford, part of a network of hotels along with Ashford Hospitality Trust and Braemar Hotels & Resorts, said it had applied for the loan in good faith but that the SBA rules ”have changed almost daily.” It said it had concluded that “we may no longer qualify.”

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#7. OneWater Marine

- Loan amount: $14.1 million
- Industry: recreational boat retailer

The Georgia-based boating store chain said it opted to return its loan after its financial results were better than anticipated and the money was no longer necessary. It said most of its roughly 63 stores that sell new and used boats had remained open in the shutdown.

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#6. Fiesta Restaurant Group

- Loan amount: $15.0 million
- Industry: restaurants

Fiesta Restaurant Group, which owns the Pollo Tropical and Taco Cabana restaurant brands, announced it would repay its loan— though it didn’t elaborate publicly on its reasons. Employing more than 10,000 people, the company has a market capitalization value of more than $205 million.

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#5. J. Alexander's Holdings

- Loan amount: $15.1 million
- Industry: upscale restaurants

The Nashville-based restaurant company said it believed it was eligible for the loan when it applied but was prompted by the SBA’s guidance to return the money. It said it had sought the money to pay about 3,400 furloughed hourly employees.

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#4. Braemar Hotels & Resorts

- Loan amount: $18.0 million
- Industry: hotels real estate investment trust

Braemar, along with Ashford Inc. and Ashford Hospitality Trust, all tied to Texas hotel magnate Monty Bennett, at first declined to return the money, saying it would be used to protect jobs. But it later said it was returning the money in light of the guideline changes.

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#3. Ruth's Chris Steak House

- Loan amount: $20.0 million
- Industry: restaurants

While Ruth’s Chris Steak House qualified for the assistance, it said it decided to return it via accelerated payment due to the program’s limited funding. It said: “It is our hope that these funds are loaned to another company to protect their employees, just as we intended." An online petition drive had collected more than 260,000 signatures to pressure the company to return the funds.

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#2. Ashford Hospitality Trust

- Loan amount: $37.8 million
- Industry: hotels real estate investment trust

Hospitality giant Ashford Hospitality Trust, which has some 120 U.S. hotels, said it decided to return the money following what it called “inconsistent federal guidance that put the companies at compliance risk." It applied for loans for each of its hotels with 500 or fewer employees, and it said it laid off or furloughed 90% of its workforce.

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#1. AutoNation

- Loan amount: $77.0 million
- Industry: retail-automotive

AutoNation, the country's largest auto dealership chain, said it has furloughed staff, implemented pay cuts, and reduced advertising outlays and capital spending as cost-cutting measures to deal with the impact of COVID-19. It said it had intended to use the loan for payroll, but after the SBA’s revised guidelines, chose to repay it instead.

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