Like many businesses, those owned by U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler and her husband, Lowell Hartzler, applied for and received Paycheck Protection Program loans to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Paycheck Protection Program was created in the relief bill approved March 27 and given $349 billion for loans to businesses that kept employees on the payroll. The money may also be spent on expenses such as rent, mortgages and utilities, and if spent within eight weeks of receipt does not have to be repaid.

Hartzler, R-Harrisonville, voted for the original legislation and last week voted to add $310 billion to the loan fund. She opposed a proposal to create a special Congressional oversight subcommittee to monitor spending of federal aid and the overall response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response to an inquiry from the Tribune, Danny Jativa, Hartzler's spokesman, wrote in an email that her "family businesses applied for and were approved for PPP loans."

Jativa wrote that Lowell Hartzler sought the loans for their businesses.

"With an understanding of the uncertain economic environment we are currently in, the Representative's husband applied for and received a PPP loan to ensure the company's ability to maintain their team's employment," Jativa wrote.

In a news release issued Monday, Hartzler's Democratic opponent, Lindsey Simmons of Hallsville, criticized her vote on the oversight committee and asked her to disclose any Paycheck Protection Funding her family businesses received.

“I was disappointed, but not surprised to see that Representative Hartzler voted against this measure which would provide accountability and transparency for taxpayers,” Simmons said.

Simmons' campaign did not respond to requests for comment on Hartzler's disclosure that her family did receive loans.

There are provisions of the bill that bar federal officials from participating in programs created by the legislation.

In the legislation signed March 27 by President Donald Trump, conflict of interest provisions bar the president, vice president, heads of executive branch departments, members of Congress or their spouses, children, or son- or daughter-in-law, "as determined under applicable common law," from receiving money set aside for hard-hit industries such as airlines or hotels.

Jativa did not specify which of the Hartzler-owned companies sought and received loans, nor did he provide the amounts or the name of the financial institution initiating the loan.

According to Congressional financial disclosure forms, the Hartzlers are joint owners of a farm and a tractor dealership, and own several farms they lease to others, all in Cass County. Lowell Hartzler also owns commercial real estate in Kansas and is a partner in an aviation company.

Their holdings are valued at $4.45 million to $15.3 million and produced income of $217,000 to $1.3 million in 2018, the last year for which figures are available. Members of Congress give ranges for the value of and income produced by their assets.

The disclosure for 2018 is the latest available because the House Ethics Committee on April 9 granted a 90-day extension to all members who had not filed their disclosures for 2019.

As a member of Congress, Hartzler is paid $174,000 per year.

Hartzler has represented the 24-county Fourth Congressional District since 2010. The district includes most of Audrain County as well as Boone, Randolph and Howard counties north of the Missouri River and extends to the Kansas border, taking in Harrisonville and Lebanon.

The Hartzlers have owned most of the holdings listed on her 2018 disclosure report since she originally won office.

"Their family businesses face the same challenges and uncertainties as any other small business in the country and the people that work there shouldn't be expected to forgo the same financial stability as any other small business employee simply because Rep. Hartzler serves in Congress,“ Jativa wrote about Hartzler's loans.

Hartzler has not filed any disclosures for financial transactions made in recent months. Those transaction reports from other members have raised questions about the stock sales by Sens. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and others, in the days before the stock market started falling precipitously as the coronavirus spread its damage to the economy

rkeller@columbiatribune.com

573-815-1709

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