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Trump administration discloses $521.5 billion in virus aid

Mark Niquette, Bloomberg News on

Published in Business News

The Trump administration released details of almost 4.9 million loans to businesses -- from sole proprietors to restaurant and hotel chains -- under the federal government's largest coronavirus relief program so far, the $669 billion Paycheck Protection Program.

The data, including the names of the program's biggest borrowers, were posted Monday morning on the website of the Small Business Administration, which ran the program with the Treasury Department.

The disclosures, which come after members of Congress and others voiced concern about the level of transparency surrounding the PPP, don't provide full details for any loans. Names of companies that borrowed less than $150,000 -- a group that comprises the vast majority of the program's borrowers -- weren't made public. And larger borrowers' loans were disclosed only in broad ranges of values, such as $5 million to $10 million.

The program, passed hurriedly by Congress in March, was designed to provide small firms with loans of as much as $10 million, based on a company's average monthly payroll before the pandemic. The loans can become grants if borrowers use the proceeds mostly to pay workers -- with some spending allowed for rent and overhead costs. Almost from the beginning, the PPP was dogged by controversy as some publicly traded firms tapped it. Many returned PPP loans after their borrowing drew criticism.

The program's supporters say it has kept tens of millions of workers employed during the pandemic and contributed to the surprising 2.5 million U.S. jobs added in May, with an additional 4.8 million jobs in June. The SBA and Treasury said borrowers reported that PPP loans supported 51.1 million jobs, or as much as 84% of all small business employees before the pandemic. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has said the program supported at least 72% of the small business payroll in all 50 states.

Monday's release reflects loans totaling almost $521.5 billion, which were approved between the launch of the program on April 3 and June 30, when the SBA temporarily stopped accepting new applications. Congress voted last week to extend the program until Aug. 8, and it reopened Monday morning.

 

Mnuchin had drawn opposition from transparency advocates for initially refusing to disclose names of companies that received PPP loans, saying the information is proprietary because loan amounts are based on borrowers' payrolls. The administration relented after demands from lawmakers and agreed to release certain information while withholding other details.

For those loans below $150,000, the agencies are disclosing specific loan amounts along with industry codes, ZIP codes, number of jobs supported and other data -- but no personally identifiable borrower information.

Meanwhile, SBA and Treasury officials said they provided access to the full data to congressional committees that have demanded it. Personally identifiable information in the data shared with Congress will be treated as confidential, according to letters the SBA and Treasury sent to the committees last month.

Critics want to see which larger firms and chains took PPP loans after reports that entities such as Shake Shack Inc. and the Los Angeles Lakers got loans ahead of mom-and-pop borrowers, prompting those two and others to return their loans. The public outcry spurred the Trump administration to promise to review all loans greater than $2 million and to tell companies that had access to other sources of capital that they likely didn't qualify for the bailout program.

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