The Small Business Administration and Treasury Department, under withering criticism for lack of transparency, shifted course Friday and announced they would disclose details of borrowers in the Paycheck Protection Program.
The SBA, which manages the $660 billion emergency lending program, will disclose business names, addresses, loan amount ranges and demographic data, among other things, as part of an agreement with bipartisan lawmakers on Capitol Hill, the SBA and Treasury announced in a joint statement.
Such data would be released for businesses that received loans of at least $150,000, which make up nearly 75% of approved funding, the SBA and the Treasury Department said.
For loans below $150,000, the SBA and Treasury announced that they would disclose totals aggregated by zip code, industry, business type and certain demographic categories.
The shroud of secrecy surrounding loan recipients has long been a sticking point for lawmakers, who have ramped up the pressure with requests from both sides of the aisle for more detailed information about the more than 4 million recipients of the more than $500 billion disbursed through the program so far.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called the move a “good start” Friday night.
“The Treasury Department finally gave in to public pressure from Democrats because their position of hiding which businesses have received PPP loans was untenable,” the New York Democrat said. “This reversal is a good start and will help us determine if taxpayer money went where Congress intended—to the truly small and unbanked small business.”
Senate Small Business Chairman Marco Rubio, who CNN reported earlier this week had been in direct talks with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin about an agreement disclosing PPP borrowers, praised the new disclosures.
“The American people deserve to know how effective the PPP was in protecting our nation’s small businesses and the tens of millions of Americans they employ. That is the standard by which we must measure the success of the PPP: how many paychecks were protected,” the Florida Republican said. “I also understand the very real concern that many small business owners have with regard to disclosing proprietary information. Today’s announcement strikes a balance between those concerns and the need for transparency.”
Mnuchin said in a statement that the disclosures marked a “bipartisan agreement,” with SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza highlighting that the steps “provide needed public information while protecting entrepreneurs’ personally identifiable information, such as a home address associated with their business loan.”
Mnuhcin had previously said the administration wasn’t likely to share the information. He told the Senate Small Business Committee last week that “as it relates to the names and amounts of specific PPP loans, we believe that that’s proprietary information, and in many cases for sole proprietors and small businesses is confidential information.”
Rubio had floated the possibility of a “middle ground” last week, where the names of borrowers would be released, but not the specific amount of their loan, or set a threshold above which detailed information would be released.
Ironically, much of the previous backlash that led public companies to return more than $12 billion in loans came from public companies filing disclosures with the Securities and Exchange Commission. But public companies make up just a sliver of the more than 4 million borrowers in the program.
This story has been updated with additional background information and context.
Caroline Kelly contributed to this story.