By Guy Page
The news that 37 Planned Parenthood affiliates nationwide have applied for and received $80 million in Small Business Administration (SBA) loan funding from the Paycheck Protection Program raises an obvious question: Is Vermont’s Planned Parenthood affiliate also improperly receiving federal funding from pandemic economic recovery programs?
Media reports in Fox News, the New York Post and the Washington Examiner list only a handful of the involved affiliates. None are from New England. The SBA website contains no reference to the improper funding. However, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, yesterday outlined the problem and called for an immediate solution:
“There is no ambiguity in the legislation that passed or public record around its passage that organizations such as Planned Parenthood, whose parent organization has close to half a billion dollars in assets, is not eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program,” Chairman Rubio said. “Those funds must be returned immediately. Furthermore, the SBA should open an investigation into how these loans were made in clear violation of the applicable affiliation rules and if Planned Parenthood, the banks, or staff at the SBA knowingly violated the law all appropriate legal options should be pursued.”
This morning, I reached out by phone for a comment from Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (PPNEE) Vice-President of Public Policy Lucy Leriche. She and I know each other from the State House. We have had cordial conversations. Calling the phone number provided on the PPNEE website, I identified myself in my Vermont Daily capacity and asked directly if PPNEE has applied for and is a recipient of federal SBA Paycheck Protection Program funding.
After a brief pause, Leriche said she didn’t recognize my number on her caller ID and said she had to get back to a phone call, immediately. Then she said she would get back to me. Then she said it might be better if I sent her an email and she would respond “when I can.”
“You can’t just give me a yes or a no on that?” I asked.
“I really need to get back to my call,” Leriche answered.
After that unproductive phone call, I sent the requested email to Leriche, using the email address on the same website. If/when Leriche responds, Vermont Daily will report her answer.
At Gov. Phil Scott’s press conference today, Vermont Daily asked the governor: “Given the news that 37 Planned Parenthood affiliates nationwide have improperly received Paycheck Protection Program funding, have you been told if Vermont’s affiliate is among them? If so, what can you tell us?” The governor replied that he had no knowledge of it, and suggested contacting the SBA. A spokesperson for the Vermont office of the SBA said he doesn’t know, either.
Imbroglios over federal funding are not new to Planned Parenthood, either the national organization or its Northern New England affiliate. Neither are frustrated attempts by Vermont media and abortion opponents to learn the details.
In 2019, the Trump administration cut off Title X family planning funding to all organizations performing abortions, consistent with the Hyde Amendment, first passed in 1977. This amendment prohibits federal spending on organizations providing abortions.
In August 2019, Vermont Health Department Commissioner Mark Levine responded immediately and publicly by replacing with state revenue the $769,000 in federal funding that Planned Parenthood chose to forgo, rather than stop performing abortions. A Vermont Daily public records request to the Vermont Attorney General’s office yielded just two documents, heavily redacted and shedding significant light on the funding source and appropriations process.
One document, an August 19 letter from Health Dept. employee Michelle Roberts to DOH legal counsel Margaret Vincent, included this unredacted, somewhat cryptic information:
“This grant the PPNNE Title Ten grant and is fairly large ($760,000). As you already know we have opted out of the Title X funding. However we are processing a grant under a different name with Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.The grants Scope has not changed. The program manager (Kim Swartz) went through and removed the references to the Title X funding. Thank you, Michelle Roberts, 802-863-7235.
In a phone call earlier this month, Assistant Attorney General Charity Clark suggested a public records request to the Scott administration and the Vermont Department of Health might yield more results. Stay tuned on that front.
Two days ago Vermont Daily sent the following email to the Vermont Department of Health media contact: “If you could send me what information you can about the funding sources and process for the August 2019 DOH funding of Planned Parenthood due to federal government not providing family planning $$ anymore to abortion providers, that would be very helpful.” As of noon today there has been no answer. Similar inquiries to several legislators since last August also have been unproductive.
Read more of Guy Page’s reports. Vermont Daily is sponsored by True North Media.