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WASHINGTON – Congress’ new stimulus bill in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic includes an additional $284 million for the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). While the program is expected to follow new rules put in place to target the aid toward harder-hit industries and small businesses, no changes have been made to improve the program’s transparency. That means both the public and elected officials may continue to struggle to get crucial information about where the money ends up going.
In response, U.S. PIRG Tax and Budget advocate R.J. Cross released the following statement:
“The Paycheck Protection Program has been an important part of the federal government’s economic response helping Americans weather the COVID-19 crisis, but the program has had transparency problems from the start. The program gave eyebrow-raising amounts of money to big businesses back in April and the Department of Justice has indicted 57 fraudsters who stole a total of $175 million from the program, with more investigations underway. Clearly, elected officials, watchdogs and the public alike need to keep a close eye on where the PPP funds go.
“Unfortunately, in developing the newest stimulus bill, Congress missed an opportunity to fix one of the PPP’s major weaknesses: the lack of specific rules requiring public disclosure of who’s getting these taxpayer-backed loans, and how much money they’re getting.
“The Trump administration has fought against making the program more transparent to us taxpayers who are footing the bill. Only this month did the public finally get a full list of all loan recipients, and it took 11 media organizations suing the SBA to get that. Having to go to court to pry information out of the government isn’t real transparency. Who’s getting our tax dollars should be readily available online to anyone who wants to know.
“There’s no good reason to hide the receipts from the American people.”
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