Austin anti-vaccine group receives federal COVID-19 relief funds 

Shannon Ryan

Austin anti-vaccine group receives federal COVID-19 relief funds 

The PPP program is intended to help keep people employed during the COVID-19 pandemic, which the founder says is what his nonprofit used the funds for.

AUSTIN, Texas – The Austin-based Informed Consent Action Network is one of five large anti-vaccination organizations that received more than $850,000 in Paycheck Protection Program loans, according to the UK-based Center for Countering Digital Hate.

According to the Washington Post, the group made the discovery using data released last month by the Small Business Administration, in response to a lawsuit from the paper and other news organizations. 

RELATED: How do you sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine in Central Texas?

“I think it’s just a real failure of joined-up government, isn’t it? When taxpayer money is going to funding something that actually goes against U.S. biological national security interests,” chief executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate Imran Ahmed said of the findings.

The PPP loan program is intended to help businesses keep people employed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Del Bigtree, the founder of Informed Consent Action Network, says that is what his nonprofit used the funds for.

“We have employees like everybody else. We used PPP in order to keep those employees employed instead of placing them on an unemployment system that is what PPP is for,” he said.  

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Still, even if allowed, Ahmed questions the messaging of having groups actively undermining COVID-19 vaccination efforts benefitting from U.S. government pandemic relief funds.

READ THE CENTER FOR COUNTERING DIGITAL HATE’S REPORT ON ANTI-VACCINATION GROUPS

“They’re highly very devious organizations that have the sheer chutzpah to take money that is assigned to help the economy recover from COVID to then disrupt the rollout of a vaccine that is our best opportunity to contain and get over COVID,” he said.

RELATED: COVID-19 vaccines: Rollout in US sparks new set of problems

Texas State anthropology associate professor Emily K. Brunson says misinformation spread about the pandemic is common. “…people don’t know where to go for information and at the same time, people are spending a lot of time on social media.” she explained. 

For information on COVID-19 and vaccines in Austin-Travis County, click here.

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