Trump administration to give Congress full loan data

WASHINGTON (AP) – After prodding from Democratic lawmakers, the Trump administration in the United States (US) has agreed to give Congress – but not the public – complete data on the millions of small businesses that received loans from a USD600 billion-plus coronavirus aid programme.

Senior administration officials told lawmakers they will provide full details on the roughly 4.7 million taxpayer-funded loans worth USD515 billion awarded under the Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) Paycheck Protection Programme. Their concession came with a warning to lawmakers not to divulge “confidential” loan information to the wider public.

Republican Richard Neal, Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, was one of the congressional oversight leaders who had pushed for the loan data from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza.

The administration’s concession is “a step in the right direction”, Neal spokesperson Erin Hatch said on Friday, though Neal believed the names of all recipients should be made public.

Republic Nydia Velazquez told The Associated Press in an email that while it’s unfortunate it took 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 properly served by the programme”.

Velazquez heads the House Small Business Committee.

Last week, the Treasury Department and SBA relented to pressure from lawmakers and watchdogs and agreed to publicly disclose details on which businesses received loans under the programme.

United States Treasury Department. PHOTO: AP

Up to now, SBA has only provided summary information about the beneficiaries of its loans, such as the industry the businesses are in and the state in which they are located.

But it will be only a partial disclosure: For loans of less than USD150,000, the agencies will not publicly name the recipients, revealing only loan amounts and summary information broken down by ZIP code, industry and demographics, and the number of jobs they helped protect.

The SBA has processed 4.7 million loans worth about USD515 billion. Nearly 75 per cent of the total money approved so far has gone to businesses borrowing more than USD150,000.

But 86 per cent of the loans have gone to businesses borrowing less than USD150,000.

Ethics watchdogs say more transparency is needed to get an accurate picture of who was helped and who was left out.

Recipients of smaller loans could be part of a bigger subsidiary that would be hidden, for example, and it wouldn’t provide a clear picture of what percentage of loans went to minority-owned businesses.

Under the new agreement, the agencies will provide the complete data on loans of all sizes to the congressional oversight panels.

It will not be made public.

And Mnuchin and Carranza told Neal, Velazquez and Republican Maxine Waters, Head of the House Financial Services Committee, in a letter that it will be given “with the understanding that non-public, personally identifiable and commercially sensitive business information will be treated as confidential”.