US govt to disclose info of businesses taking PPP loans

Amid mounting pressure from lawmakers, the US Treasury Department and Small Business Administration said that they would disclose information about businesses that take Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans of $150,000 or more.

Names, addresses, zip codes, demographic data and other details of the businesses will be disclosed in five loan amount ranges starting with $150,000 to $350,000, and going up to $5 million to $10 million,a joint statement from the agencies said on Friday.

Noting that these categories account for nearly 75 per cent of the loan dollars approved, the agencies said for loans below $150,000 dollars, totals will be released, aggregated by zip code, industry, business type, and various demographic categories, reports Xinhua news agency.

At a Congressional hearing last week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin refused to release data about the government aid program, saying that the names of companies that received forgivable loans and the amounts were proprietary or confidential.

The remarks, however, have drawn backlash from lawmakers and beyond.

“Given the many problems with the program, it is imperative American taxpayers know if the money is going where Congress intended — to the truly small and unbanked small business,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat.

“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 a statement on Friday.

The program, intended to help small businesses retain their employees during the COVID-19 crisis, offers support for businesses with fewer than 500 employees and allows companies to have their loans forgiven if they spend the money on payroll, rent, mortgage interest and utilities.

However, as small businesses scramble to apply for loans under the program, a few not-so-small companies secured millions of dollars of aid, sparking public outrage and raising questions about the relief package.

In a $2.2 trillion relief package approved by Congress in March, $349 billion had been allocated to fund the PPP.

The program, however, ran out of money within two weeks due to high demand.

In April, Congress passed a $484 billion relief package, of which more than $310 billion went to the PPP as additional funding.