June 25, 2020

Harris Introduces Legislation to Require Transparency of Small Business Loans Amid COVID-19 Crisis

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris (D-CA) on Thursday introduced the Paycheck Protection Program Transparency Act, legislation that requires the Small Business Administration (SBA) to release data on companies receiving loans from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) amid the COVID-19 crisis. The bill comes after reports of PPP loans going to rich corporations, while shutting out small businesses– particularly small businesses in minority communities. Last week, the Treasury announced they will release the data of PPP borrowers over $150,000– but that is not enough. The data must be made publicly searchable, online, and updated often. Representative Katie Porter (D-CA) introduced the companion legislation in the House.

“Transparency and accountability are essential as our government continues to address the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Harris. “PPP loans were put in place to help sustain our small businesses, not to fill the pockets of large, wealthy corporations. Let’s be clear: all data on borrowers receiving PPP loans must be made publicly searchable, online, and regularly updated. I’m proud to introduce the Paycheck Protection Program Transparency Act. This vital legislation will ensure oversight and accountability and allow for deficiencies in the distribution of PPP loans to be rooted out. We need to know if minority communities and business owners are being served.”

“We have an obligation to tell American taxpayers where their money is going, especially when it’s in the form of forgivable loans,” Porter said. “If the government is going to give essentially free money to businesses, we need to see the data showing that these dollars are going to working families and our most vulnerable small businesses, not big companies trying to game the system. Senator Harris and I have called on the Trump Administration to do what is already allowed under federal law and release information about the Paycheck Protection Program, but if they will not act, we will push in Congress to require the transparency Americans deserve.”

The Paycheck Protection Program Transparency Act:

  • Require the Small Business Administration (SBA) to create a free public website with information about Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans available in a downloadable format.
  • The website should be created within 30 days and updated no less than every seven days thereafter.
  • Required information for borrowers includes:
    • Name of the borrower;
    • Amount received, and date of receipt;
    • Location including city, state, ZIP, and congressional district;
    • Number of employees at the time of receipt;
    • Whether the borrower is controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals, women, or veterans;
    • Tax status; and
    • Funds returned, if applicable.

In addition to Harris and Porter, co-sponsors of the Paycheck Protection Program Transparency Act are Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tina Smith (D-MN), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM); Representatives Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA), Gil Cisneros (D-CA), Andy Levin (D-MI), Mike Levin (D-CA), Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL), Kim Schrier (D-WA), Lori Trahan (D-MA), Sean Casten (D-IL), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Val Demings (D-FL), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Jim Cooper (D-TN), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), John Garamendi (D-CA), Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Lou Correa (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Haley Stevens (D-MI), Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), David Cicilline (D-RI), and Gerry Connolly (D-VA).

The bill is endorsed by The Project On Government Oversight, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, R Street Institute, U.S. PIRG, Accountable.US, Open the Government, Mainers for Accountable Leadership, Equal Justice Society, Small Business Majority, and Main Street Alliance.

“In normal times and with fewer taxpayer dollars at stake, the Small Business Administration has provided basic information to the public about its lending programs,” said Gary Kalman, Director of the TI-US office. “In what world does greater spending and higher risk require more secrecy? This bill is a necessary and commonsense fix, letting taxpayers know how their money is being spent.”

Scott Greytak, TI-US’s Advocacy Director, added, “Years of empirical evidence shows that emergency relief programs like the PPP are uniquely vulnerable to corruption, waste, fraud, and abuse. Yet American taxpayers have been denied even the most basic information about where their money is going. Public confidence in government is at a tipping point, and this legislation is an example of how we can begin to rebuild trust by showing—not just telling—the American people that their money is being spent properly and effectively.”

"Taxpayers have a right to know if our hard earned money is truly being used to aid those small businesses most affected by the economic impacts of the coronavirus or if it is being siphoned off by cronyism and mismanagement. While the administration has partially reversed course on its truly baffling efforts to conceal PPP loan information from the public, it has not committed to the level of transparency that taxpayers deserve. POGO applauds this legislative effort to compel basic transparency about the use of over half a trillion tax dollars,” said Liz Hempowicz, Director of Public Policy at The Project On Government Oversight.

“America’s small business community is facing an unprecedented crisis, and the future strength of our economy depends on ensuring that PPP money is reaching those businesses in the most need. Many small businesses are relying solely on this funding as a means of survival,” said John Arensmeyer, Founder and CEO of Small Business Majority. “Given the size, scope, and magnitude of this program, oversight and transparency are necessary. For too long small businesses owned by women, people of color, and in rural areas have been left behind in small business lending, and it is essential that we do not history repeat itself with this program. We commend Senator Harris for leading this effort in the Senate, and we encourage Congressional leadership and the Administration to not delay any further in passing and signing this bill into law.” 

Bill text can be found HERE.

A one pager on the bill can be found HERE.

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