The Mackinac Center has a long history of challenging overreach by the Michigan Education Association. The latest victory occurred in March, with the resolution of a lawsuit against the MEA and its affiliate, the Michigan Education Special Services Association, or MESSA. The suit alleged that the entities claimed over $12 million in government COVID loans which they were ineligible to receive.
During the early days of the COVID pandemic, Congress approved the CARES act. This spending package included $349 billion for loans through the paycheck protection program, or PPP. Congress established these loans to fund up to eight weeks of payroll and overhead expenses of qualifying organizations. The goal was to ensure that employers were able to retain employees even during the economic downturn caused by government-imposed COVID restrictions. Only specific entities were eligible for these loans, and unions were not on the list.
That did not dissuade the MEA from securing over $6 million in loans. The union falsely certified that it was an eligible organization. An MEA-affiliated insurance program, MESSA, received a similar loan. All told, the two claimed over $12 million in government-insured loans that were supposed to be reserved for struggling businesses.
The Mackinac Center investigated and discovered both the MEA and MESSA were not entitled to the loans. In response, we sued both entities under the federal False Claims Act, which authorizes lawsuits against those who submit false claims to the government. As the case progressed, the U.S. District Attorney for the Western District of Michigan chose to prosecute the case, which has now been settled. Both the MEA and MESSA have repaid the improper loans and have been assessed fines and penalties.
Unfortunately, the damage has already been done. These loans could have saved as many as 80 small businesses from closing. Instead, Michiganders across the state floundered while the MEA and MESSA took funds that rightfully belonged to someone else.
The Mackinac Center is proud to continue the tradition of holding powerful interests accountable for wrongdoing. In addition to holding the MEA and MESSA accountable, we have pursued and obtained records from the state health department about the true number of nursing home deaths during the pandemic. We built on that momentum by challenging COVID penalties imposed by the state’s workplace safety regulators. Most significant of all was the Mackinac Center’s successful effort to persuade the Michigan Supreme Court to strike down Gov. Whitmer’s COVID-era executive orders as unconstitutional. Whatever it takes, the we are always ready to defend the people of Michigan.