May 05, 2020

Cardin, Shaheen, Schumer Move to Pass Legislation to Increase Transparency & Accountability of COVID-19 Small Business Relief Efforts

Trump Administration’s Implementation of Small Business Relief is not Meeting Standard of Transparency Expected by American People

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), a senior member of the Small Business Committee, and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) today sought unanimous consent to pass legislation to provide additional transparency and accountability of the federal government’s COVID-19 small business relief efforts. In additional to Cardin, Shaheen and Schumer, the measure is cosponsored by Democratic Senators Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Joe Manchin (W.Va.). Senate Republicans blocked the measure from passing.

The Transparency and Oversight of COVID-19 Small Business Recover Assistance Act would require the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to provide Congress and the public with timely, detailed data on the agency’s COVID-19 small business relief programs, including the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and Emergency Grants Program, and the Debt Relief Program.

“An understanding of how PPP loans, EIDLs, Emergency Grants and small business debt relief are being distributed is fundamental to Congress’ ability to assess the successes and failures of these vital programs,” Cardin said. “This is a common sense measure that would require SBA to provide timely, detailed data on the companies receiving PPP loans and EIDLs so Congress can make the improvements necessary to ensure that our most vulnerable small businesses can access these loans. I urge my Republican colleagues to support this bill, as well as other efforts to conduct rigorous oversight on these programs.”

“Small businesses are the lifeblood of the New Hampshire economy and I want these relief programs to work for them,” said Shaheen. “We need to make sure that assistance is getting to small businesses and nonprofits that need it most, which was the intent of the law, and not to large corporations trying to game the system. It’s clear that these programs need oversight and transparency. That is why I’m proud to join Senators Cardin and Schumer in introducing legislation that will shed some sunlight on these programs and I will continue to fight to get it passed in the Senate.”

“The only way to improve the new small business lending programs to ensure aid is getting to businesses that need it most is through transparency, oversight, and accountability. It is Congress’s job to shine light on how coronavirus legislation affects the American people, but Senate Republicans are more focused on protecting the Trump administration than being good stewards of taxpayer dollars,” said Leader Schumer. “We could take steps today to do this essential oversight of the SBA programs, but instead, Leader McConnell is pushing through right-wing nominees and blocking commonsense legislation that would help us make the necessary fixes to see that all small businesses are helped during this crisis.”

In response to COVID-19’s impact on small businesses, Congress enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which created several new program to help small businesses avoid financial ruin, including PPP, the EIDL and Emergency Grants Program, and the Debt Relief Program for new and existing borrowers in SBA’s traditional lending programs, the Microloan Program, the 7(a) Loan Guaranty Program, and the 504 Loan Program. In total, the relief programs have received nearly $750 billion in funding from taxpayers, including a $660 billion appropriation to PPP and a $50 billion appropriation to EIDL, enough for SBA to make roughly $350 billion in long-term, low-interest disaster loans directly from the government.

In the weeks since the Administration began implementing the programs, the Trump Administration has not met the standard of transparency expected from the American people. Congress needs timely, detailed data show which companies and communities are benefiting from these programs in order to make necessary improvement to ensure that all small businesses are able to access the programs, especially those in underserved communities and rural markets.

On April 17, Cardin, Shaheen, Schumer, and Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) sent a letter to SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin urging the administration officials to provide American taxpayers detailed data on how small business relief funds are being distributed.

The Transparency and Oversight of COVID–19 Small Business Assistance Act would require the Administration to provide Congress and the public with timely, detailed data on the COVID-19 small business relief programs. Specifically, the bill would require the Administration to:

  • issue a daily report detailing total loans and grants approved and disbursed in PPP, the EIDL and Emergency Grants Programs, and the Debt Relief Program, as well as total remaining funds available and an estimate of when the funds will be depleted;
  • release a weekly report detailing the lending trends in the program broken down by geography, demographics, loan sizes, industry, lender type; and lender and broker fees;
  • make the data on these programs available to the public in a standardized and downloadable format, including information SBA currently publishes such as names and addresses of the businesses, nonprofits, and lenders, the loan or grant amounts;
  • clarify that sensitive personal information of recipients such as social security numbers is protected; and,
  • provide Congress with a report showing how SBA and Treasury are using the $2.7 billion in administrative funding appropriated to the agencies to identify and prevent waste, fraud, and abuse in the programs and implement the programs.

The bill also requires the Government Accountability Office to submit a report to Congress evaluating if the Administration’s implementation of the provisions effectively reached underbanked and underserved borrowers, including a comprehensive review of the daily and weekly data, and compare PPP lending and processes by top banks to mission lenders.

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