Lakers return $4.6 million loan they received as part of government's small-business program

The Los Angeles Lakers have returned a $4.6 million payment intended for small businesses. The team qualified for, applied for and received the money as part of the United States government’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, but decided to return the money after that program’s $2.2 trillion budget ran out in two weeks, according to ESPN.

The team confirmed it received the loan and returned it.

"The Lakers qualified for and received a loan under the Payroll Protection Program," the Lakers said in a statement to ESPN. "Once we found out the funds from the program had been depleted, we repaid the loan so that financial support would be directed to those most in need. The Lakers remain completely committed to supporting both our employees and our community."

The CARES Act was established to assist small business amid the coronavirus pandemic, but the program has experienced issues with rollout. A number of highly profitable businesses — like the Lakers — have received those funds instead of the small businesses the act was created to help. Both Shake Shack and AutoNation received significant loans from the government. Both companies pledged to return those loans.

The Lakers are believed to be worth more than $4 billion, according to ESPN.

The Lakers' value was estimated to be more than $4 billion prior to the virus outbreak. They have the league's most lucrative local broadcast deal, which generates more than $150 million in annual revenue. In addition to the Buss family, which presides as the controlling owners, the franchise has three billionaire minority partners — Philip Anschutz, Patrick Soon-Shiong and Ed Roski Jr.

In March, the Lakers, along with the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Kings, established a fund that would support event staff for income lost as a result of postponed games.

The small-business loan program is set to accept applications for another round of loans Monday. While the program has implemented restrictions ensuring businesses like the Lakers won’t qualify this time around, there are still concerns over how the loans will be distributed.

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