Treasury agrees to release names of PPP borrowers

The Trump administration has announced it will release the names of companies that received a loan of $150,000 or more from the US government’s bailout fund for small businesses.

The move comes amid criticism that the $670bn Paycheck Protection Program had unfairly benefited large banks and companies.

On Friday Steven Mnuchin, Treasury secretary, and Jovita Carranza, head of the Small Business Administration, announced the names would be released following an agreement with Republican and Democratic lawmakers.

“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,” Mr Mnuchin said in a statement.

Ms Carranza added: “We value transparency and our fiduciary responsibility to ensure American taxpayer funds are used appropriately.”

The officials did not say when the list of companies would be publicly released.

Their announcement follows fierce criticism from several Democratic lawmakers who warned, in a letter to Mr Mnuchin and Ms Carranza earlier this week, that the administration was not being transparent about what share of the loans was going to rural or underserved communities.

“Contrary to Secretary Mnuchin’s recent testimony, there is nothing ‘proprietary’ or ‘confidential’ about a business receiving millions of dollars appropriated by Congress, and taxpayers deserve to know how their money is being spent”, and whether the funds were “helping vulnerable businesses and saving jobs, or are being diverted due to waste, fraud, and abuse”.

Separately, Politico, the US news outlet, this week found that at least four congressional representatives who own or whose families own publicly-owned companies which had been approved for PPP loans, adding to criticism of the programme.

More than $512.2bn has been distributed through the programme thus far. Approximately a third of the loans have been distributed by just 34 big banks, which have more than $50bn in assets, while about 19 per cent have been distributed by lenders with $10bn to $50bn in assets, and 44 per cent have been distributed by lenders with less than $10bn in assets.

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Democrats have repeatedly expressed concern that not enough loans were being distributed by community development financial institutions — or private banks that focus on low-income businesses.

JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America have distributed $28.6bn and $25bn worth of loans respectively, roughly double what the programme’s next biggest lender, PNC Bank, distributed.

By contrast, less than $3bn has been distributed to CDFIs in the second round of funding, which has distributed more than $189bn thus far. The Small Business Administration had set aside $10bn for those type of institutions.

Overall, the government has distributed 4,800 loans totalling more than $5m. However, roughly two-thirds of the funds distributed have been in the form of loans totalling $1m or less.

Republicans are pushing for PPP to be replenished later this summer as part of a follow-up package to the $2.2tn Cares Act.