Treasury, SBA cave to demands for bailout transparency

Victoria Guida

The Treasury Department and Small Business Administration bowed to congressional pressure Friday and said they will disclose information on companies that received loans under the government’s massive small business rescue program.

The names of companies and nonprofits that got loans larger than $150,000 under the Paycheck Protection Program will be released, along with other identifying information, the agencies said in a statement. Loan amounts will only be given within a certain range.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the move represents an agreement with the bipartisan leaders of the Senate Small Business Committee, which is headed by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.). Those lawmakers had asked for all borrowers to be identified; the deal will cover nearly 75 percent of the more than $500 billion that has been lent out, though only a minority of the 4.5 million total beneficiaries.

“I am pleased that we have been able to reach a bipartisan agreement on disclosure which will strike the appropriate balance of providing public transparency, while protecting the payroll and personal income information of small businesses, sole proprietors, and independent contractors,” Mnuchin said in the release.

The compromise comes amid growing concern from lawmakers of both parties about the limitations the administration has placed on oversight of its coronavirus response.

Mnuchin ignited controversy last week when he said the Trump administration will not reveal the names of companies and nonprofits that got the PPP loans, which are guaranteed by the government and can be forgiven in full if borrowers use a majority of the funds to pay their workers.

The agencies had expressed worry that such disclosures might reveal proprietary information about the borrowers because the loans are based on payroll.

The agencies will only release totals for loans of less than $150,000 aggregated by ZIP code, industry, business type and “various demographic categories,” the Treasury and SBA said.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement: “Democrats will continue to push for maximum transparency from the Trump administration, especially when it comes to CARES Act funds,” referring to the $2 trillion relief package Congress passed in March.

Rubio signaled he was satisfied with the agreement.

“The American people deserve to know how effective the PPP was in protecting our nation’s small businesses and the tens of millions of Americans they employ,” he said in a statement. “I also understand the very real concern that many small business owners have with regard to disclosing proprietary information. Today’s announcement strikes a balance between those concerns and the need for transparency.”

CORRECTION: A previous version of this report misstated the portion of beneficiaries whose information would be disclosed. The disclosures cover 75 percent of the amount the government has lent out, but a minority of borrowers.