Watchdogs: Treasury too secretive on small business loans

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin

Under pressure from Democratic lawmakers and government watchdogs, the Treasury Department and the Small Business Administration said Friday they would disclose the names of small business owners who received $150,000 or more in forgivable loans. The agencies will reveal the general amount these businesses received, their address, demographic data and the number of jobs they helped protect.

But for loans of less than $150,000, the agencies will not name the recipients, revealing only summary information broken down by zip code, industry and demographics.

Experts say this could paint an incomplete or misleading picture. Recipients of smaller loans could be part of a bigger subsidiary that would be hidden, and it won’t be clear what percentage of loans went to minority-owned businesses.

A factory located in a minority neighborhood, for example, could be owned by an individual or conglomerate based elsewhere.

The administration’s new approach on disclosure ”is a big deal compared to where we were, but it’s not enough to have confidence that this money is going to the right people, who actually urgently need it,” said Danielle Brian, executive director of the nonpartisan Project On Government Oversight.

As of Friday, the SBA said it had processed 4.6 million loans worth about $512 billion. Nearly 75% of the money approved so far has gone to businesses borrowing more than $150,000. But 86% of the loans have gone to businesses borrowing less than $150,000, according to the SBA.

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