MIDLAND, Mich. (AP) — A conservative economic-policy group will get a $22,500 reward for blowing the whistle on a Michigan teachers union and its insurance arm, which got $12.5 million in government-backed loans during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy filed a lawsuit, arguing that the Michigan Education Association and the Michigan Education Special Services Association, known as MESSA, weren't eligible for the money.
The union and its insurance affiliate repaid the loans with interest in December 2020, a year before the lawsuit was filed. The government had paid their lender a processing fee for the MEA and MESSA loans.
The MEA and MESSA have agreed to pay $215,000 to the government, according to settlement documents released Monday.
The Mackinac Center is the union's longtime nemesis. It said it will receive roughly 10% of that amount on top of $77,000 in legal fees.
MEA spokesman Doug Pratt said the lawsuit was a "politically motivated attack."
"Based on the rules at the time, we believed we were eligible and our bank agreed," Pratt said. "Thousands of businesses were taking out loans because of financial uncertainties. Once the uncertainties disappeared, we paid back the money with interest."
The Midland-based Mackinac Center accused the union of getting in front of struggling businesses that couldn't get a government-backed loan.
The award and legal fees "will be used to advance school choice and educate Michigan teachers about their right to opt out of union membership and dues," President Joseph Lehman said.