Robert De Niro's national restaurant chain, Nobu – a high-end sushi connoisseur's eatery – accepted as much as $27.7 million in 14 taxpayer-backed loans from the Paycheck Protection Program in response to the COVID-19 aftermath.

What's the problem with that? The idea of the PPP and loan forgiveness is to provide economic relief to small businesses that have been adversely impacted by the pandemic, isn't that right?

I've been reading that not hundreds, but tens of thousands of companies have received this revenue without keeping jobs, and that's part of the snarl. The program is for businesses, nonprofits, Tribal businesses and veterans organizations with 500 employees or less. That number, 500, is another tangle for some of these large chains.

I'm guessing that De Niro's company is a well-funded operation. Back in April, do you remember the fierce backlash some of the nonprofits and companies received when they applied for and accepted relief money? Harvard was shamed and returned the millions, as did Five Guys, Nathan's Famous, and the Los Angeles Lakers, just to name a few.

The name Payroll Protection Program clearly suggests its intent, but the sad reality is that thousands of companies obtained loans without retaining jobs. Around here, Legal Seafoods is in the news for this.

Meanwhile, Black-owned businesses in Massachusetts received far fewer PPP loans, and I mean substantially fewer loans than what others got.

Something is very wrong when you have an overwhelming majority of Massachusetts PPP recipients, who disclose race self-identified as White, took in larger loans than Black-owned businesses. Black businesses in our own backyard not only received smaller loans, but they also received fewer loans, according to PPP data.

This is disgraceful.

Phil Paleologos is the host of The Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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