Ruth's Chris Steakhouse says it will repay the $20 million in loans it took from the Small Business Administration's Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) after news of the loan sparked online outrage.
The PPP was supposed to offer loans to small businesses who are struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic. However, the $350 billion fund was drained just two weeks after it was set up.
Large restaurant chains like Ruth's Chris and Shake Shack were among those that applied for loans under the PPP. Legally, those companies actually applied for assistance — any restaurant with less than 500 employees per location qualified.
Ruth's Hospitality Group, which operates more than 100 steakhouses in North America, took two $10 million loans from the PPP. News of the loan sparked outrage across the country — a Change.org petition calling for the company to return the money garnered more than 250,000 signatures.
The company promised to repay the funds in a statement issued to NBC News on Thursday.
"We intended to repay this loan in adherence with government guidelines, but as we learned more about the funding limitations of the program and the unintended impact, we have decided to accelerate that repayment," said Cheryl Henry, the CEO of Ruth's Hospitality Group. "It is our hope that these funds are loaned to another company to protect their employees."
According to The Associated Press, new guidelines from the SBA "require companies to certify with their lender that they need the loan and cannot access the money from other sources."
The Senate and the House have both approved a $500 billion stimulus package, some of which will be used to re-fund the PPP.