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Republican Tim Sheehy hates COVID relief cash. His company took a lot of it.

Sheehy falsely claimed his company was shut down by a federal mandate.

By Jesse Valentine - January 24, 2024
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Tim Sheehy
Tim Sheehy, founder of Bridger Aerospace and Ascent Vision, pauses during a tour of the company’s facility on Friday, Aug. 30, 2022 in Belgrade, Mont. Sheehy announced Tuesday, June 27, 2023, that he’ll seek the 2024 GOP nomination to challenge Montana Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester. (Rachel Leathe/Bozeman Daily Chronicle via AP)

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tim Sheehy routinely attacks pandemic relief spending even though his company collected nearly $1 million in COVID relief funds.

Sheehy is the founder and CEO of Bridger Aerospace, a company that manufactures aircrafts used to fight wildfires. He launched his senate campaign on June 27, 2023. If Sheehy secures the GOP nomination, he will face incumbent Democratic Sen. Jon Tester in the general election.

On his campaign website, Sheehy lists reigning in government spending as one of his priorities. He has consistently tied COVID relief spending to the national debt.

“Democrats made their blueprint for America incredibly clear during COVID, and that is more government, not less,” Sheehy told Fox News in June 2023. “Jon Tester has been in lockstep with that vision his whole life. And now I think it’s going to be hard for him to run away from that path because it’s very clear.”

According to publicly available data, in May 2020, Bridger Aerospace received a $774,300 Paycheck Protection Program loan. These loans were intended for small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The loan was ultimately forgiven, meaning Bridger Aerospace was not required to pay it back.

In May 2022, Bridger Aerospace received a $210,000 workforce training grant funded by the American Rescue Plan Act, a COVID relief package that was signed into law by President Joe Biden. Sheehy has since criticized Jon Tester for supporting the American Rescue Plan.

“Two-faced Tester was the deciding vote for Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act,” Sheehy posted to the social media platform X.

In a September 2023 appearance on KVGO radio, Sheehy defended taking the loans by claiming Bridger Aerospace was shut down by federal mandates making the financial aid a necessity.

“It was a government PPP loan to my business for us to retain hundreds of jobs here in Montana, while one of our businesses that fights fires from the air, you know, was shut down by mandate, by the government, like many other businesses, so we accepted a PPP loan to keep our people employed,” Sheehy said.

This is not accurate. Bridger Aerospace was never shut down. Between 2018 and 2021 the company received multiple, multi-million dollar federal contracts. None of these contracts were nullified during the pandemic.

In addition to political hypocrisy, the loans also contradict Sheehy’s efforts to characterize Bridger Aerospace as a company that succeeded without government help. 

“We were truly a bootstrap operation. We were an all-veteran founding team, all family and veterans, and started in my barn in November of 2014. And, you know, I don’t know how many times we went broke in those first couple years, but it was a lot, and we were barely making it,” Sheehy said on the Voices of Montana radio show in June 2023. Later, Sheehy boasted that it was part of the “Montana spirit” to not take “government handouts” or “ask for freebies.”

Montana’s senate primary is scheduled for June 4, 2024. Sheehy’s campaign has been endorsed by the National Republican Senatorial Committee. 

A spokesperson for Sheehy did not respond to a request to comment for this story.


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