U.S. Government Releases Data On Businesses That Took Pandemic Aid

Written by on 12/02/2020

U.S. Government Releases Data On Businesses That Took Pandemic Aid

Via Reuters:

The Trump administration late on Tuesday released the names of more than 10 million businesses and individuals that took pandemic aid, providing more transparency for the programs which officials say have been plagued by fraud and abuse.

The Treasury Department and Small Business Administration (SBA) were forced to release the information on the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) after a federal judge last month sided with a challenge brought by news organizations seeking the data under the Freedom of Information Act.

The two programs were the primary means by which the federal government assisted small businesses hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Trump administration from the outset had resisted providing full transparency on who got the cash.

“SBA’s historically successful COVID relief loan programs have helped millions of small businesses and tens of millions of American workers when they needed it most,” a spokesperson for the SBA said.

As of November, the SBA had processed and approved more than 5.2 million individual PPP loans amounting to $525 billion, along with 3.65 million EIDL loans worth $194 billion. Several billions of dollars have gone to ineligible businesses and fraudsters, watchdogs have warned.

The SBA in July identified borrowers who took more than $150,000 from the PPP, but provided only aggregated and anonymized data for borrowers who took less than $150,000, which accounted for roughly 85% of the total number of PPP loans. The agency provided similar partial disclosures for EIDL loans.

The Trump administration said that identifying the EIDL and PPP recipients would violate individuals’ personal privacy and reveal confidential business information that can be redacted under Freedom of Information Act exemptions.

A federal judge in Washington, D.C., rejected that argument and dismissed further efforts by the agency to delay releasing the data, which it mandated must be published by Dec. 1.

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