Administration Widens Loan Disclosure, but Watchdogs Want More

Government was under pressure to provide information about who received the money
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 21, 2020 12:00 PM CDT
Administration to Give Some Data on Loans, but not Names
Chairs are stacked on tables in a closed restaurant in New York in March.   (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura, File)

The Trump administration has relented to public pressure and pledged to provide more details about which small businesses received loans from a $600 billion-plus coronavirus aid program. But government watchdogs say even more transparency is needed to get an accurate picture of who was helped and who was left out, the AP reports. Under pressure from Democratic lawmakers and government watchdogs, the Treasury Department and the Small Business Administration said Friday they would disclose the names of small-business owners who received $150,000 or more in forgivable loans. The agencies will reveal the general amount these businesses received, their address, demographic data and the number of jobs they helped protect. But for loans of less than $150,000, the agencies will not name recipients, revealing only summary information broken down by ZIP code, industry and demographics.

Experts say this could paint a misleading picture. Recipients of smaller loans could be part of a bigger subsidiary that would be hidden, and it won’t be clear what percentage of loans went to minority-owned businesses. A factory in a minority neighborhood, for example, could be owned by a person or conglomerate based elsewhere. The administration's new approach "is a big deal compared to where we were, but it's not enough to have confidence that this money is going to the right people, who actually urgently need it," said Danielle Brian of the nonpartisan Project On Government Oversight. Treasury spokespeople didn’t respond to a request for comment Saturday, though Secretary Steven Mnuchin earlier said he is concerned about business owners’ privacy. The SBA said it has processed 4.6 million loans worth about $512 billion. "It's taxpayer money," said the head of Public Citizen. "It is completely reasonable for the public to know who received it." (The loan program ran out of money quickly.)

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