GOP Senate hopeful Hovde blasts student loan relief but touted debt relief for businesses - TAI News
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Wisconsin Republican U.S. Senate candidate Eric Hovde is attacking President Joe Biden’s latest plan to forgive student loan debt as “patently unfair” and “vote buying.” But as a bank executive, he touted and profited from a 2020 pandemic relief law signed by President Donald Trump that provided forgivable loans to businesses.

Hovde, the chairman and CEO of the California-based Sunwest Bank, announced in February that he would challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin, though he reportedly lives most of the time at a $7 million Laguna Beach, California, mansion. 

Biden announced in Madison on April 8 that his administration would expand the number of Americans eligible for student loan relief to more than 30 million, noting that more than 135,000 borrowers in Wisconsin have already enrolled in the Saving on a Valuable Education Plan.

“Folks, I will never stop [fighting] to deliver student debt relief on [to] hardworking Americans,” the president promised, according to a transcript released by the White House. “And it’s only in the interest of America that we do it. And, again, it’s for the good of our economy, that’s growing stronger and stronger — and it is.”

Hovde dubbed the debt relief expansion the “Biden-Baldwin vote buying scheme.” In a campaign video, Hovde asked why it was fair for taxpayers without student debt to have to pay for those with it. “It’s wrong what they’re doing,” he said, “and nobody should support their actions.” 

Four years ago, however, he made no such objection to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a Small Business Administration program created in the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which provided hundreds of billions of dollars in forgivable loans to businesses. 

Under the law, U.S. banks made SBA-guaranteed loans to businesses and received financing fees from the agency of between 1% and 5%. About 92% of the loans were then forgiven, in whole or in part, according to a January 2023 NPR analysis of SBA data

Under Hovde’s leadership, Sunwest Bank took part in the program. SBA data shows that it made 3,664 PPP loans, totaling $906.2 million.  

Even at the lowest rate, those loans would have likely resulted in more than $9 million in fees paid to his bank. 

Hovde appeared in an April 2020 Sunwest Bank video explaining the program. “As a preferred lending partner of the SBA, I would like to give you a few high-level details about the program,” he said, before explaining the program and how businesses could take advantage of its loan forgiveness. “We know this is a tough time for everyone. We believe these loans can play a critical role in helping your business during these difficult times.” 

A Hovde campaign spokesperson did not immediately respond to questions for this story. Hovde’s campaign issues webpage blasts Biden over federal spending and debt levels, but makes no mention of increased spending under Trump, who oversaw an increase of about $7.8 trillion in the national debt during his term.

The White House has previously called out the hypocrisy of Republican lawmakers who took PPP loans but opposed student debt relief. 

On April 10, Wisconsin Republican Rep. Derrick Van Orden opposed Biden’s plan, saying in a campaign press release, “They’re expecting our hardworking blue-collar men and women who decided to go to trade school to pay off the bill of people that have decided to get a four-year degree.”

The Wisconsin Examiner reported in June 2021 that the Rosie Network, a nonprofit on whose board Van Orden sat, received more than $21,000 in PPP loans and $150,000 in loans through a separate pandemic relief program. He told the Examiner that he backed the CARES Act but opposed subsequent pandemic relief laws.

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