Luxury hotel chain Omni Hotels pocketed $76 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds — but has failed to use the bulk of the cash to pay its struggling workers, a hospitality workers’ union claims.
Omni, which has dozens of hotels across the country, received the forgivable loan through the Paycheck Protection Program for 32 of its locations, according to the union United Here.
Roughly $23 million went to seven hotels in cities like Chicago, Boston, Washington, DC, and San Francisco — where about 1,000 employees are represented by the union, NPR reported.
Omni Providence Hotel in Rhode Island also got a loan to the tune of $2.6 million loan — to save 246 jobs.
But Quilcia Moronta, a single mom with two kids, told NPR she hasn’t gotten a single penny.
“As I was struggling to provide for my family, I learned that the Omni had received some PPP money,” said Moronta, a health club attendant who worked at the hotel for 21 years before she was laid off. “I said, ‘Great, at least they’re gonna help us get by when it comes to basic needs.’”
“Right now, here we are in December, and we haven’t heard anything about Omni using that money to help their employees,” she added.
United Here executive vice president Carlos Aramayo said Moronta’s story is a familiar one.
“Here in Boston, I’ve spoken to hundreds of workers who work at the Omni Parker House, and I know none of them have received a single dime of this money,” Aramayo told the outlet. “Looking at this winter, a lot of them could really use it.”
Earlier this month, United Here estimated that more than 80 percent of workers at five Omni properties were unemployed — even though the locations received “millions” in PPP loans.
Aramayo wrote to the Small Business Administration and Treasury Department to investigate Omni’s use of the loan, “especially if [the borrowers] apply for forgiveness.”
“It’s disgusting if companies want to use this as a way to get a low-interest loan from the federal government,” said Aramayo. “It’s really not fair for a company to take money that was intended to help out their own workforce and use it for some other purpose.”
In a statement to NPR, the hotel chain said “any amount of the PPP loans that are not forgiven will be returned or repaid with interest per program terms.”
The SBA has doled out $523 billion in loans to some 5.2 million struggling businesses to help keep them afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The program, initially designed to help small businesses, has faced scrutiny after large businesses, private schools and even churches netted millions in loans.