While other Florida business owners are struggling to get their Paycheck Protection Program — or PPP — loans canceled, a Florida lawmaker has apparently taken care of it.
The man in question is Rep. Webster Barnabas (R-Deltona), who apparently applied for the loan for his business, Selling Connections Unlimited LLC. Data from ProPublica, which tracks every business that has been approved for a federal PPP loan, shows Barnaby received a loan of $33,542 on April 30, 2020, when the first round of loans was issued.
This loan, plus approximately $400 in interest, was cancelled. The entire loan went to payroll; for a company that has just two current employees, according to ProPublica.
This raises a few questions, some of which have remained unanswered. One of the most important questions about this company is about the company itself, what does it do? The division of companies— a state-run website — says Selling Connections Unlimited was started in January 2011 by Barnaby, with a home in Deltona listed as his business address. The Florida House website even lists Barnaby’s occupation as the president of an LLC, referring to Selling Connections Unlimited.
Little information about the company is available, which is evident when you try to search for it online. The only results on the first two pages of Google’s search return results for the company’s LLC status with the state and other watchdog organizations, including another PPP watchdog called PPP Detective. .
In reality, the results on PPP Detective paint the same picture for Barnaby’s business: there are only two employees, the business received a PPP loan worth over $33,000, and that loan was forgiven.
A financial disclosure form from Barnaby filed in June 2021 with the Florida Commission on Ethics indicates that he earned $139,452 on Selling Connections Unlimited and only $4,174 as a representative. In this same form, he also valued the business at $21,000.
A closer look at his Florida filing status shows that Barnaby filed another LLC called Global business connections in 1999, which ended up disbanding in 2001. Prior to that, he also filed another LLC called Business Connections Unlimited, Inc. This too was dissolved, but not voluntarily like the other company. According to the state, Business Connections Unlimited was dissolved after Barnaby failed to file an annual return.
Forgiving Barnaby’s loan might not bode well for some business owners in the state. A Miami Herald report indicates that businesses in majority-minority ZIP codes had some of the lowest loan forgiveness rates in the country. Senator Marco Rubio sent a letter to the Small Business Administration last week asking for answers on why there is such a backlog in Florida.
“Based on the most recent data available, the SBA has a backlog of more than 63,000 unresolved loan forgiveness requests. Additionally, there are approximately 1.4 million PPP loans under $150,000 still outstanding where the borrower has not yet requested loan forgiveness,” Rubio wrote. “Even more concerning, the most recent data available shows that businesses with predominantly black or Hispanic ZIP codes, including in Miami-Dade, Broward and Osceola counties in Florida, had some of the lowest PPP loan forgiveness rates. 2020 lowest in the country. . ”
“For an administration that is committed to making racial equity central to its agenda, these numbers suggest a remarkable lack of responsiveness to underserved communities,” Rubio added.
At the moment, Barnaby is running for reelection against fellow member Elizabeth Fetterhoff (R-DeLand) in the 29th House District. Both currently represent neighboring districts of the House, but redistricting plans will soon place them in the same jurisdiction, which means that they will have to face each other in a primary.
News Daytona Beach has reached out to Barnaby for comment. We have not yet received a response.