WASHINGTON (AP) – After lobbying Democratic lawmakers, the Trump administration agreed to give Congress, but not the public, full data on the millions of small businesses that received loans from a coronavirus aid program of more than $ 600,000 millions.
Senior administration officials told lawmakers they will provide full details on the approximately 4.7 million taxpayer-financed loans worth $ 515 billion made under the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program. . His grant came with a warning to lawmakers not to release “confidential” loan information to the general public.
Representative Richard Neal, a Massachusetts Democrat, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, was one of the supervisory leaders of Congress who requested the loan details from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and SBA Administrator, Jovita Carranza.
The administration’s grant is “a step in the right direction,” Neal spokeswoman Erin Hatch said Friday, although Neal believes the names of all recipients should be made public.
Representative Nydia Velazquez, DN.Y., told The Associated Press in an email that, while regrettable, she received so much pressure from Congress, “This is a valuable step, and we will be carefully reviewing the data to ensure that taxpayers and small businesses are being adequately served by the program. ” Velázquez heads the Chamber’s Small Business Committee.
Last week, the Treasury Department and the SBA yielded to pressure from lawmakers and vigilantes and agreed to publicly disclose details about which companies received loans under the program. So far, the SBA has only provided summary information about its loan recipients, such as the industry the companies are in and the state they are in.
But it will only be a partial disclosure: For loans under $ 150,000, agencies will not publicly name beneficiaries, revealing only the loan amounts and summary information broken down by zip code, industry and demographics, and the number of jobs that they helped protect.
The SBA has processed 4.7 million loans worth approximately $ 515 billion. Almost 75% of the total money approved so far has gone to companies that borrow more than $ 150,000. But 86% of the loans have gone to companies that ask for less than $ 150,000.
Guardians of ethics say more transparency is needed to get an accurate picture of who was helped and who was excluded. Smaller loan recipients could be part of a larger subsidiary that would be hidden, for example, and would not provide a clear picture of what percentage of loans went to minority-owned companies.
Under the new agreement, agencies will provide full data on loans of all sizes to congressional oversight panels. Data on loans under $ 150,000 will only be provided to Congress, not the public. And Mnuchin and Carranza told Neal, Velázquez, and Representative Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, head of the House Financial Services Committee, in a letter to be released “with the understanding that nonpublic, personally identifiable business information and commercially sensitive to be treated as confidential. “
Details on loans of all sizes are publicly disclosed for traditional SBA loan programs. But PPP is different for smaller loans, the administration maintains, because the loan amounts are calculated based on payroll data, which employers generally consider competitive or private. The payroll information could include the personal income of sole proprietors and independent contractors, the administration says.
“This public disclosure approach will allow Americans to see how their tax dollars are spent, while ensuring that America’s employers and job creators can compete fairly as our economy is safely reopened,” Mnuchin and Carranza said in their letter.
The Payment Check Protection Program started in early April and ends at the end of the month. Loans can be forgiven if companies use the money to keep employees on the payroll or to rehire workers who have been laid off.
Several hundred publicly listed companies received these loans despite their likely ability to borrow money elsewhere, and, after a protest, some said they would return the money.
The pandemic has caused a deep recession, and the unemployment rate in the US is above 13% after falling slightly in May. Economists have said the small business loan program has helped, although it is difficult to know how much.
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