How has this hotel firm spent its PPP money? Eight members of Congress want to know

Eight members of Congress are calling on the Small Business Administration to investigate whether the operator of a luxury Santa Monica hotel and dozens of other properties properly spent tens of millions of dollars in pandemic relief funding.

a group of people that are talking on a cell phone: A group prays during an August demonstration supporting Margarita Santos, center, who was fired from her housekeeping job at the JW Marriott Santa Monica Le Merigot hotel. The hotel's operator, Columbia Sussex, received tens of millions of dollars in PPP loans. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

© Provided by The LA Times
A group prays during an August demonstration supporting Margarita Santos, center, who was fired from her housekeeping job at the JW Marriott Santa Monica Le Merigot hotel. The hotel’s operator, Columbia Sussex, received tens of millions of dollars in PPP loans. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine) and seven of her Democratic colleagues issued a letter Tuesday urging the SBA to investigate how a hotel conglomerate that owns or operates at least 50 hotels spent the money it received — as much as $63 million — from the Paycheck Protection Program.


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The group of lawmakers said in the letter that the PPP was designed to keep workers employed but that the hotel company, Columbia Sussex, accepted the funding through multiple affiliates and still laid off thousands of workers.

“Columbia Sussex appears to have taken advantage of these policies — borrowing taxpayer money at artificially low interest rates through multiple entities while laying off workers,” their letter to SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza says.

Phone calls and emails to the Kentucky headquarters of Columbia Sussex were not returned Tuesday.

The PPP, part of the $2-trillion stimulus funding package approved by Congress in March, was promoted as a tool for keeping workers employed during the economic crisis. But experts, academics and union leaders told the Los Angeles Times that loopholes and flaws in the program allowed businesses to accept millions of dollars in forgivable loans without retaining or recalling most of their workers.

The program requires loan recipients to use at least 60% of the money on payroll and lets them wait as late as December to spend that money on payroll. If the recipient doesn’t follow the guidelines, the loan is no longer forgivable — but it converts to a low-interest loan that is much cheaper than loans offered by traditional lenders.

The PPP launched in April with $349 billion for forgivable loans. Congress added $320 billion later that month. The program ended Aug. 8 with more than $100 billion left unused.

Columbia Sussex, through affiliates, employed about 6,500 people nationwide before the pandemic. Porter and her colleagues accused the hotel conglomerate of receiving the PPP funding through 17 affiliates, registered at the same Kentucky address, and double counting employees of the various companies to justify the need for more PPP money.

The letter asks the SBA to investigate the 17 loans and respond by Monday.

Porter’s office said the call for an investigation is supported by Unite Here Local 11, which represents thousands of hotel workers in Southern California and Arizona. The union has been critical of the Columbia Sussex-operated JW Marriott Santa Monica Le Merigot hotel, accusing management of firing a housekeeper after she was infected with COVID-19 and of

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Red Roof Inn charges guest for smoking cleanup, but she doesn’t smoke. Money refunded

A Red Roof Inn.

A Red Roof Inn.

Q: My husband and I recently stayed at the Red Roof Inn in Gallup, New Mexico. We checked in late in the evening. We asked if they had any first-floor rooms because we are senior citizens, and they accommodated us.

When we got to the room, it had an awful odor, but we didn’t want to complain because they put us on the ground floor and we were tired and didn’t want to move. So we opened the door and tried to air it out the best we could.

After returning from our trip, I checked the credit card activity and noticed that there was a charge of $100 for a smoking fee. I called a manager at the Red Roof Inn. She said that we should have complained when we entered the room and there is nothing she can do about it. She said we were lucky they only charged us half the fee. I told her we requested a nonsmoking room, because we do not smoke. Why would we then smoke in the room? She said the cleaning lady said the room smelled of smoke and so we were guilty of smoking.

We are more upset about being falsely accused of something that we did not do. We are starting to think that this is some sort of scam. Please help us. — Mindy Haggerty, Pueblo West, Colorado

A: You didn’t smoke in your room. Therefore, you should not have to pay a smoking fee — or half a smoking fee. Goes without saying, right?

So what went wrong here? Easy. I think you were too polite. When you checked into a room that smelled like smoke, you should have said something. You were still being polite when you referred to it as an “odor.”

The last time I wrote about smoking fees in hotels, I had the audacity to say that if you smoke in your room, you should pay the cleaning fee. Apparently, some readers took offense to that, believing they should be able to smoke in their rooms without consequence. But that’s the world we live in.

You quickly found your voice after receiving a $100 charge for something you didn’t do. When the hotel refused to reverse the charge, you posted warnings on several websites and filed a BBB complaint. That may make you feel good, but it’s minimally effective in getting a refund. You could have appealed to one of the Red Roof Inn contacts I list at

Red Roof did respond to you in writing about your complaint. It said when its housekeeper opened the room to clean it, “there was a strong smell of cigarette smoke.” The housekeeper contacted a front desk representative, who then accompanied the housekeeper to the room and verified that there was indeed a strong smell of smoke. Your room had to be closed for a few days while the hotel cleaned it. Still, Red Roof notes that it only charged you

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Rep. Kenny Marchant spent over $1,300 in campaign money at posh London hotel

The top Republican on the House Ethics Committee spent more than $1,300 in campaign funds at a five-star hotel in London, according to Federal Election Commission records examined by CQ Roll Call.

Kenny Marchant et al. looking at a laptop: Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Texas, spent campaign funds at a luxury hotel in London.

© Provided by Roll Call
Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Texas, spent campaign funds at a luxury hotel in London.

From 2018-2019, Texas Rep. Kenny Marchant’s campaign committee — Kenny Marchant for Congress — expended funds at The Royal Horseguards Hotel, a luxury hotel overlooking the River Thames positioned within walking distance to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. The hotel offers “Victorian grandeur combined with elegant, first class contemporary comfort,” and is “one of the finest hotels near Westminster,” according to the hotel’s website.

Luke Bunting, a spokesperson for Marchant, said the lawmaker has regularly participated in congressional delegation travel (CODEL). A CODEL is considered official travel, which is paid for or authorized by the House. Members and staff travel abroad in these CODELs.

“That figure reflects four separate transactions that occurred over a period of two years, with only one taking place during this Congress,” Bunting said in an email.

Two of the four expenditures at the hotel were described as “lodging” and the remaining two as “travel expense.”

“The Congressman has regularly participated in codel working trips abroad alongside fellow Members of Congress, with strict adherence to all FEC and ethics rules,” Bunting added. “This includes the House ethics rule that campaign funds may be used to ‘pay official or officially-related travel expenses’, and the FEC rule that funds may be used to ‘defray the ordinary and necessary expenses incurred in connection with an individual’s duties as of a federal officeholder.’ As is our practice, we will take another look at these expenses and provide any necessary updates.”

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When asked why, if Marchant was on a CODEL, shouldn’t all the expenses be paid out of committee funds, as well as what specific expenses Marchant was defraying, Bunting did not respond.

Tom Rust, a spokesperson for the House Ethics Committee, had no comment.

Federal law and House Rules prohibit members from using campaign funds for personal use.

When it comes to travel expenses, the FEC says: “Campaign funds may be used to pay the costs of travel to an activity that is related to the campaign or to the candidate’s duties as a federal officeholder.”

Daniel Weiner, a former Federal Election Commission attorney who is the deputy director of election reform at the Brennan Center for Justice, said it really depends on what the details of the specific expenditures were and there is a lot of deference afforded to candidates and officeholders when it comes to travel. 

“If it’s just a question of he was on official travel and he wanted to stay at a nicer hotel and so he used his campaign funds, you might

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Healthy number of Mayfield Heights residents take recreation survey as city determines how best to spend new tax money

MAYFIELD HEIGHTS, Ohio — Nearly 900 residents participated in a survey or focus group, answering questions about what is most important to them when it comes to city recreation.

The questioning, which took place over the course of four months, comes in the wake of the springtime passage of Issue 9, the city’s .5 percent income tax increase. The city has earmarked 40 percent of the approximately $5 million the tax increase will generate by 2023 — or about $2 million per year — to recreation.

“I’m very, very thrilled,” said Krista Rodriguez, of The Impact Group, which performed the survey, in speaking about the 852 residents who completed a survey on paper or online. “That’s a high number for getting a response rate for a city of your size, and that was very good to see.”

Rodriguez shared results of the survey with City Council during a Committee-of-the-Whole meeting Monday (Oct. 12).

First discussed were a number of questions pertaining to the city’s stated goal of building a new swimming pool to replace the more than 60-year-old Dragga Pool at City Park. It was found that 77 percent of respondents were aware of the city’s plan for a new pool, as well as its plans to use tax money to upgrade roads, sidewalks and parks.

Sixty-two percent said that they do not use the pool at all during the summer, but some stated that their lack of use was attached to the condition of the pool which, among other things, needs regular repairs to cracks on the bottom.

In other responses, 56 percent thought it was very or somewhat important that the new pool has a splash pad; 89 percent favored umbrellas or shaded areas; 69 percent, a water slide; 68 percent, a children’s playground in the water; 63 percent, zero-depth entry; 53 percent, a diving board; and 48 percent, lap lanes.

As for what Rodriguez termed “online trends,” residents asked that Mayfield Heights take a look at Mayfield Village’s pool before building, as they very much like the village’s pool.

Residents also called for extended pool hours, both earlier and later in the day. Seniors and swim teams, in particular, wanted lap lanes, while others wanted expanded parking, a lot of poolside chairs, shaded areas and for the city to not raise membership fees just because the pool would be new.

Playground questions

The city currently has two playgrounds at City Park and one at Oakville Park. While 84 percent of respondents want updated play equipment at the playgrounds, 82 percent want to ensure that the new playground or playgrounds would have amenities for those with special needs. Seventy-seven percent want new rubber surfacing.

As for online trends, residents suggest that the city look at Beachwood’s Preston’s Hope playground for children with special needs to use as a guideline, while others want the new facilities to include stimulating new learning opportunities for children.

Residents also asked for new seating for adults at the playgrounds, fencing to keep in

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Book Flight and Hotel Together and Save Money With These Guidelines

There are places to go, landmarks to see, and unique cuisines to experience; but in order to get there, you must first use internet travel discount tools to help you book flight and hotel.

You can’t just find cheap travel deals with a regular search engine. You must make use of the search tools offered by leading travel sites so that you can instantly see all of the available flights and hotel rooms on specific dates, and compare the results.

How does a flight to Orlando and a night’s stay at a nice resort sound? Or a flight to Las Vegas and a weekend’s stay at a casino? These are only examples of what you might find if you search for airfare and hotel packages. These kinds of offers require that you stay at the destination for a specific number of nights, which could be one to seven nights, depending on the offer.

If your travel plans are flexible, it will be easier to find a cheap package. Your local airport may or may not be offering cheap rates to the city you want to fly to. If you don’t mind waiting awhile for a deal to pop up, or have an alternative destination in mind, you will increase your chances of saving money on your trip.

Whenever travelers book flight and hotel online, there is usually an option to include a car rental in the reservation. Determine whether or not it would be cheaper to rent a car with the hotel room and airfare, or if you should book it separately.

Deadlines to Watch For When You Book a Flight and Hotel

There is usually a deadline displayed for each deal so that you’ll know for how long it will be available. Some sites even allow you to “save” the offers if you are unsure which one you want to book so that you can go back and compare them all later.

If you already have a particular hotel in mind, you can add it to your “Favorites” and check back with it later to see if there is an “Airfare included in price” notification with it. Or, you could check with the airlines themselves to see which hotels and inns they are currently partnered with, and if there are currently any package deals available in your ideal destination(s).

It isn’t always the best idea to book flight and hotel together, depending on the destination and time of year. You might very well find that it would be cheaper to book them separately for your itinerary.

Online vacation deals are where you should begin your search. You can either browse all of the current offers or use the search tools if you have something specific in mind. It’s very easy – and cheap – to book flight and hotel online.…

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Cheap Vacation Bundle Deals: Info on Saving Money on Airfare, Hotel Rooms, Cruises, & More

Whether you’re planning for spring break, a summer vacation, or winter getaway, there are many nice places to go and things to do. It’s off-season or shoulder-season somewhere in the world, so there are cheap vacation bundle deals waiting to be snatched up. Don’t miss out on the chance to go to a nice city, town, or country at an affordable price.

You can get started by visiting the discount travel sites to see what is available. You can check the following for deals:

• Flight and hotel together

• Flight and car together

• Flight, hotel and car together

• Each of these individually

There are also sections featuring the best deals, like last-minute packages and bundles under $500. Even if you already have a certain destination in mind, you should still look into these types of deals as one of them might just be exactly what you’re looking for.

It’s quite common for airlines and hotels to offer discounts on bundling. Each airline has a number of hotel brands it partners with. Delta, for instance, partners with Hard Rock Hotels and Paradise Island Resorts. American Airlines has hotel partners like Best Western, Sheraton, Marriott, Radisson Hotel Group, and more.

To get access to cheap vacation bundle deals, it’s usually best to visit the online discount travel hubs that offer promo codes and coupons to help you save even more money. Also, check your credit card’s site to see if you are eligible for any travel discounts or rewards programs.

Baggage fees may or may not be included in the listed price; this is an important factor to keep in mind. Fares are usually non-transferrable. Depending on the deal and website, they might be non-refundable as well. Always read the terms and conditions carefully.

What About Train Travel?

Who says you have to get to your destination via airplane? While it may take longer, a train trip is less costly and offers better views. No matter what country you’re in or what continent you are on, you can see much more of the land from a train than a plane.

And Cruises?

Don’t forget cruises. With a cruise, you get to explore the ocean AND land. The longer the cruise, the more islands and port cities you’ll get to visit. You might be able to get a bundle deal that includes a night’s stay at a hotel near the port you’ll be departing from. Caribbean cruises tend to be VERY affordable during late summer / early fall.

There are many options to consider when creating your itinerary, so use internet tools to help you obtain cheap vacation bundle deals.

When searching for cheap vacation bundle deals, consider starting online. There you will find amazing deals on every sort of trip imaginable, from Caribbean cruises to big city getaways. You can save additional money on your upcoming journey by using online discount codes.…

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Planning A Cruise Vacation – Here’s How to Save Money

When planning a vacation with family and friends, you really sweat it out, because you want to have fun, but at the same time you have to ensure your plans don’t burden your pocket. It’s true you have to pay if you want to enjoy top-notch services, but everywhere there are a few insider tips that will help you pinch a few pennies.

This article discusses a few ways you could save money on your next cruise ship vacation. Check them out.

Early bird booking –

Book in advance, almost 6 to 8 months earlier. Cruise lines offer excellent deals to travelers who several months ahead of their travel date as a promotion strategy. Make reservations during the wave season could get you free or slashed air fare, cabin upgrades, free beverage packages and other on-board complimentary amenities.

Last minute reservations –

It might not be a very practical option for a family, but if you are traveling with friends, alone or as a couple, you can book, pack and go. Last minute bookings, almost 3-6 weeks before the sail date, can help shave off a few hundred dollars. The only downside of this tactic is that you have to settle for what is given to you (e.g. Rooms without balconies); there is no choosing.

Travel off-season –

Travelers can snag a great price on a cruise ship vacation by travelling off-season. The prices dip even further during hurricane season. An advantage of travelling during the off-season is that you can escape the crowds and enjoy a more relaxing and peaceful holiday.

Grab sales and discounts –

The travel industry, as far as cruise ship vacations are concerned, has an abundance of sales and promotions. To get the latest updates, you can register with a travel agent specializing in cruise travels and vacations or sign up for newsletters. Such sales don’t offer savings over and above 50%. This is a tip to tell which offer can be trusted and which not.

Shorter cruise –

Can’t afford a week-long cruise ship vacation? You can always book yourself for a shorter one. Given the demand for shorter cruises and more affordable rates, many cruise lines offer cruise trips closer to home. It gets more economical as you save a major chunk on airfare.

Book on board –

If you are a travel buff and plan to take more cruise ship vacations in the future, you can book on board. It’s not exactly a reservation, but a credit that can be applied to any future booking you make for a cruise ship vacation. The advantages include flexibility in choosing travel date, itineraries and cruise ship and reduced deposit amount. The deposit amount is refundable.

On board savings –

The other tips you can use to save on board, on your cruise ship vacation include the following:

· Instead of booking all-inclusive air packages, make your own reservations for airfares and excursions.

· Pack light to cut costs spent on luggage fees.

· Pre-purchase …

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Travelocity Cheap Flights Info – A Guide to Finding the Best Travel Deals & Saving Money

Whether you’re planning a trek across an entire continent or want to visit another city for a few days, Travelocity is the best site for getting cheap flights and hotel rooms. There are hundreds of airlines and 140,000 to choose from. Simply enter the travel dates and begin the search, or check out the “current deals” page. It’s always easy to find Travelocity cheap flights, no matter where you want to go.

Since 1996, it has been the leading website to put discount travel in the hands of the customer. You can easily plan your entire trip from start to finish – and save money in the process. The search engine is straightforward and easy to use. You don’t have to search for just airfare. You can also look for a hotel room and cheap car rental at the same time.

Travelocity often offers deals through email. If you don’t have time to search the site, you can sign up to receive the newest and best travel deals through email.

This website includes low airfare from all of the major airlines in the world, including United, Delta, American Airlines, Air Canada, Air France, etc. You’ll find discounts on the smaller charter airline companies as well. Whether you need a short flight to a nearby city or want to fly across the world, always check with Travelocity cheap flights to see what is available.

Where Else to Find Travelocity Cheap Flights

Sometimes there are promo codes that are available at third party coupon sites. These are worth looking into because they can help you save additional money. Travelocity doesn’t necessarily advertise every single discount offer directly on their site or through the newsletter. Just read the terms and conditions regarding any promo code because they often expire after a short period. If you find a good one that will help you save on your flight, be sure to jump on it while it’s still available.

When booking your trip, about halfway through the checkout process there will be a spot for you to enter the promo code. Before finalizing, make sure that the discount has been applied to the order.

Comparing Travelocity cheap flights is easy. All of the details are listed and easy to look over. This includes price, tax information, dates, times, whether or not there are any connections, if a hotel is included, etc. If you are comparing vacation packages at resorts and hotels, there will be a small plane icon if airfare is included in the price.

Travelocity was designed with the customer in mind. There is no need to hire a travel agent when you can do all of the planning yourself – for free. The travel itself can be very inexpensive – especially if you take advantage of Travelocity cheap flights, hotel discounts, car rental coupons, budget cruises, and more.…

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Loans, Debt, Finance, And Making Money

Although it may not seem so, in actuality, Leisure and Recreation is the most important trade in the world. Discovering steadiness can be a purpose why leisure and recreation can improve your high quality of life. For recreation staff who generally work part time, comparable to camp counselors and activity specialists, certain qualities could also be extra essential than schooling.

2 Recreational actions are sometimes done for enjoyment , amusement , or pleasure and are thought-about to be ” enjoyable “. Many people who are experiencing signs of a mental sickness have misplaced touch with their leisure life or have turn out to be socially isolated.

If the Industrial Revolution helped create the historical past of leisure and recreation, the 20th century helped cement it. Workers demanded shorter working hours, paid holidays and holidays, and weekends off, leading to much more leisure time for the world’s workforce.

Clearly, recreational actions have come a long methods since the time of the Renaissance. One of the biggest names in the early days of the game was Miss Mitzi Mueller (typically spelled Muller) who ranks right up there with American female professional wrestling legends like Mildred Burke, June Byers and the Fabulous Moolah.

The Metropolis of Arcadia Recreation and Community Companies Department supplies a broad spectrum of recreational activities, programs and direct providers for folks of all ages. All kinds of fitness, recreation, and leisure applications and services can be found here for you.

Flip by means of the leisure guide , which showcases recreational and cultural packages and occasions for journey-seekers of all ages. In Richmond we’ve many modern recreation facilities and applications that contribute to a healthy lively group and assist to reinforce ones high quality of life.…

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