RESTAURANT giant Ruth's Chris Steakhouse is among the massive chains that pocketed $300 million intended for small businesses.
The food giant recently received two loans of $10 million each.
The massive chain, which has 150 restaurants and nearly 6,000 employees, received the payments from a coronavirus-related relief program.
Fast-food giant Shake Shack also received a US Small Business Administration loan, but has said it will return the dough so the money can go businesses in greater need.
The company said it will immediately hand back the entire $10 million US Small Business Administration loan.
An online petition is calling for Ruth's Chris to give back its SBA money as well.
The Change.org demand already has about 180,000 signatures
"This is a travesty, and a disgusting display of corporate greed during a time of disaster," reads the petition.
"Tell Ruth's Chris Steak House 'Return the money now! You will be shamed forever if you do not. People will not forget.'
"Demand that Ruth's Chris Steak House return the money that it, in effect, stole from actual small businesses across this great country."
The Paycheck Protection Program was supposed to infuse small businesses, which typically have less access to quick cash and credit, with $349 billion in emergency loans that could help keep workers on the job and bills paid on time.
At least 75 companies that received the aid were publicly traded, The Associated Press found, and some had market values well over $100 million.
The SBA is a key part of the government's $2.2 trillion aid package aimed at helping small companies keep paying their employees and their basic bills during the shutdowns.
The goal is to allow them to reopen quickly when public health allows.
But less than two weeks after it started, the program has already run out of money.
More than 25 percent of the $350 billion fund went to fewer than 2 percent of the firms that got relief.
That number included publicly traded companies with thousands of employees and hundreds of millions of dollars in annual sales.
Several franchises of McDonald's Corp and Dunkin' Brands Group Inc are also said to have applied for the loan.
Potbelly Corp and Fiesta Restaurant Group's Texas Taco Cabana are also among the chains that have borrowed money.
Shake Shack CEO Randy Garutti told CNN that the company changed its mind and returned the loan after hearing small business owners' stories about not getting access to it.
"That doesn't seem right to us," he said.
"As we watched this opportunity play out over the weeks, it was very clear that the program was underfunded and wasn't set up for everyone to win."
President Donald Trump on Sunday defended restaurant chains, hotel operators and hedge funds accessing funding meant for small businesses.
There have been more than 800,000 coronavirus cases in the US.
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