Home Business Watchdogs: Treasury still too secretive on small business loans – Boston Herald

Watchdogs: Treasury still too secretive on small business loans – Boston Herald

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NEW YORK — The Trump administration has relented to public pressure and pledged to provide more details about which small businesses received loans from a $600 billion-plus coronavirus aid program. But government watchdogs say even more transparency is needed to get an accurate picture of who was helped, and who was left out.

Under pressure from Democratic lawmakers and government watchdogs, the Treasury Department and the Small Business Administration said this weekend they would disclose the names of small business owners who received $150,000 or more in forgivable loans. The agencies will reveal the general amount these businesses received, their address, demographic data and the number of jobs they helped protect.

But for loans of less than $150,000, the agencies will not name the recipients, revealing only summary information broken down by zip code, industry and demographics.

Experts say this could paint an incomplete or misleading picture. Recipients of smaller loans could be part of a bigger subsidiary that would be hidden, and it won’t be clear what percentage of loans went to minority-owned businesses.

A factory located in a minority neighborhood, for example, could be owned by an individual or conglomerate based elsewhere.

The administration’s new approach on disclosure ”is a big deal compared to where we were, but it’s not enough to have confidence that this money is going to the right people, who actually urgently need it,” said Danielle Brian, executive director of the nonpartisan Project On Government Oversight.

Treasury Department spokespeople didn’t respond to a request for comment Saturday, although Secretary Steven Mnuchin has previously said he is concerned about business owners’ privacy.

As of Friday, the SBA said it had processed 4.6 million loans worth about $512 billion. Nearly 75% of the money approved so far has gone to businesses borrowing more than $150,000. But 86% of the loans have gone to businesses borrowing less than $150,000, according to the SBA.

The Paycheck Protection Program started in early April and runs out at the end of the month. The loans can be forgiven if businesses use the money to keep employees on payroll or rehire workers who have been laid off.

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