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AUSTIN — As millions of Texans struggle to make ends meet because of recent government shutdowns, one Central Texas Democrat congressional candidate is receiving nationwide flak this week after her campaign took tens of thousands of dollars meant for shutdown-crippled small businesses.

Dr. Christine Mann, running for Congress in Central Texas’ 31st district, applied for and received a $28,000 loan in May from the “Paycheck Protection Program,” a pool of taxpayer money the federal government set aside to “help businesses keep their workforce employed during the coronavirus.”

Mann took the money for her campaign, then paid it back the following month, raising questions from the public and sparking nationwide attention.

“As a self-funder, Christine Mann using coronavirus relief funds to prop up her campaign is tantamount to lining her own pockets with aid that’s supposed to help small businesses,” said the Republican National Congressional Committee on behalf of current Rep. John Carter, whom Mann is trying to unseat.

Mann’s campaign said they consulted accountants and the FEC about the loan, and no one objected. Two state Democrat parties have taken PPP loans, but Mann’s campaign might be the first to directly receive PPP cash, according to Brendan Fischer of the nonprofit Campaign Legal Center.

“It’s not necessarily unlawful, but it’s perhaps politically inadvisable,” said Fischer. “Part of the reason we haven’t seen more campaigns take out these PPP loans is because the campaigns knew that the loan would have to be disclosed on their FEC reports, and it’s not a good look.”

Numerous citizens also reacted to Mann on Twitter.

“Wow so you took money that could have gone to existing businesses (likely some run by WOC) which then maybe went under so you could continue your vanity run at Congress?” one individual wrote.

“Your campaign is temporary, those loans were for permanent establishments. You took from businesses that had possibly been around for decades, because you couldn’t afford your political aspirations,” another said.

Mann responded to some criticism by saying “It is true – I pay my staff (amazing Brown & Black Women from #TX31) a living wage during this pandemic,” which sparked even more backlash.

“In which corporate Dem candidate Christine Mann uses women of color to justify looting PPP money for her Congressional campaign,” one citizen replied.

“Mann taking this loan is a slap in the face to all those struggling during this pandemic,” concluded the RNCC.

Mann is a staunch Democrat who is pro-Medicare for All (a popular Democratic Socialists’ plan) and pro-killing babies; according to her campaign website, she is “appalled” by lawmakers who have attempted to protect babies from being killed in the womb.

Mann currently faces fellow Democrat Donna Imam in a runoff election to determine who will take on longtime Republican Rep. Carter in November.

Early voting for all state runoff elections is currently underway and continues through July 10, with Election Day on July 14.