Key Republican Asks 100% Disclosure on Paycheck Protection Loans

The Republican chairman of a key Senate oversight panel is calling on the Treasury Department to do more to reveal who benefited from hundreds of billions of dollars of small business loans disbursed as part of the U.S. coronavirus relief effort.

“I completely support 100% disclosure,” Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who leads the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, said Tuesday. “The application says it was going to be disclosed. It should be disclosed.”

The Treasury Department and Small Business Administration initially resisted calls to release data about the loan program known as the Paycheck Protection Program. They eventually released company names and details for loans above $150,000 with amounts provided in ranges, but no personally identifiable information for smaller loans. The data also was riddled with mistakes about loan amounts, the numbers of jobs saved and congressional districts where the company is located.

Jovita Carranza, who leads the U.S. Small Business Administration, said at a July 17 House hearing that SBA is reviewing all loans and asking businesses or lenders to contact the agency if they believe their reported information is inaccurate. The agency hasn’t responded to questions about whether it will release updated data with corrections. Treasury also didn’t respond to a request to comment.

“We put a man on the moon; we can put out data that is sight-checked and accurate,” Neil Barofsky, who led the Troubled Asset Relief Program after the 2008 financial crisis, told Johnson at the hearing Tuesday. “Excuses that they can’t put out data should be recognized for what they are: excuses to cover something up.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said the U.S. should weigh whether to give simplified loan forgiveness to those with smaller loans so they can avoid the complicated process. Senate Republicans released a proposal Monday that would allow borrowers with loans of less than $150,000 to simply certify they followed the rules, with a streamlined process for forgiving loans of between $150,000 and $2 million. Johnson said he wants more restrictions on loan forgiveness.

“We should limit forgiveness,” Johnson said. “PPP is not meant to guarantee or increase profitability.”

Congress has approved $669 billion of small business loans to help companies survive the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. More than $130 billion remains available, and Congress is contemplating expanding the program.

A plan rolled out by Senate Republicans on Monday would direct more aid to seasonal businesses and firms in low-income communities. It would also allow some companies to apply for a second loan.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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