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Pushing for Transparency: Advocates Want More Help For Small Businesses

Posted at 7:49 AM, May 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-01 07:49:03-04

LANSING, Mich. — The first round of loans through the paycheck protection program faced a lot of backlash when it came to transparency, especially with companies who didn't need the money receiving it. Alicia Nieves is looking at the push for more transparency to make sure that small business are getting the help they need to keep their businesses afloat.

The Federal Government has been pushing out trillions of dollars to try and stabilize the economy.

“The biggest bailout in U.S. History deserves the most transparency in U.S. history, and nothing could be clearer. ”Watchdog groups like the U.S. Public Interest Research Group have been calling for real-time transparency, and now at least one federal authority, the Federal Reserve, says it will answer that call. On a monthly basis, it will begin publishing the names of those corporations receiving assistance under its emergency programs.

“Honestly it was pretty incredible that the federal reserve agreed to this kind of disclosure.” “I am hoping that, that level of transparency will be carried forward to all the agencies in the CARES Act.” The Fed’s move comes amid growing concern around the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program. A week ago, reports revealed *at least* a handful of large publicly traded companies had received PPP loans. The fast food Chain Shake Shack was one of them and was one of the first to return the money - $10 million in its case.But a data analytic company, FactSquared, went through Securities and Exchange Commission filings. It found far more large companies received PPP loans, than initially thought.

“It had nothing to do with them disclosing through the SBA or something else, it was just going through another agency where they had to disclose to investors that we are taking this money and that is how we pick it up.”

FactSquared found At least $900 millions dollars in forgivable small business loans…Went to more than 200 major companies like: The Los Angeles Lakers and a luxury hotel chain. The hotel chain was able to treat each of its hotels as an individual business and applied for 117 loans, getting at least $40 million so far. The hotel chain says it plans to keep the funds, while The Lakers and more than a dozen other businesses have committed to returning their PPP loan money (~$116.8 million).

“The fact that some companies are say ‘Oops, our bad’, this gets back to the purpose of transparency and why this type of information should be released.”FactSquared was only able to find less than 1% of the companies that took PPP loans, but it’s report is now being used as a real-time example of why more transparency is needed.

“It doesn’t do us any good three months down the line to have found out this list of companies, that money would’ve already been spent. It is because this transparency happened so quickly that we are able to course correct and companies can give that money and the treasury can readjust it’s rules moving forward so that way this money can actually help those it was intended to help.”

The SBA has not yet agreed to release the information around all businesses that receive a PPP loan. However, the treasury department has announced every company that got more than $2 million will be fully audited and face costly penalties if they shouldn’t have received loans. The Treasury department is also giving companies an out, saying if they return the money by May 7th they can avoid that.

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