Billionaire West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice's family businesses received at least $11.1 million from a federal rescue package meant to keep small businesses afloat during the coronavirus pandemic, according to data released by the Treasury Department on Monday.
Justice, a Republican, is considered to be West Virginia's richest man through ownership of dozens of coal and agricultural businesses, many of which have been sued for unpaid debts. At least six Justice family entities received the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, including the governor's lavish resort The Greenbrier, as well as The Greenbrier Sporting Club, an exclusive members-only club linked to the resort.
The aid package is the centerpiece of the federal government's plan to rescue an economy devastated by shutdowns and uncertainty. The data released by the Treasury Department presents the fullest accounting of the program thus far, though payments to Justice companies could be higher than $11.1 million because the federal government disclosed the dollar figures in ranges, not specific amounts.
Justice acknowledged last week that his private companies received money from the program but said he did not know specific dollar amounts. A representative for the governor's family companies did not immediately return an e-mail seeking comment. At a news briefing Monday, Justice again said he was unsure of the dollar amount but added that he pushed for companies to take advantage of any federal virus relief programs.
"I encouraged all business in our state to try to seek anything and everything that they could possibly seek from the federal government in regards to loans," Justice said, adding that around $2 billion has come into the state from the federal package.
The governor said he wanted to place his assets in a blind trust shortly after he was elected but has not done so.
Last year, another one of Justice's family businesses, Justice Farms of North Carolina, received $125,000 in soybean and corn subsidies, the maximum allowed from a separate federal program meant to help American farmers through the U.S. trade war with China. The payments, made public through the Freedom of Information Act, highlighted the sometimes fraught relationship between the billionaire's businesses and his role as chief executive.