Government releases borrower details for small-business relief program

(CNN) — After withering pressure from lawmakers, the federal government on Monday released data on hundreds of thousands of borrowers from the $660 billion Paycheck Protection Program — the main relief vehicle for small and mid-size companies suffering from the pandemic lockdowns.

The data released by the Small Business Administration and Treasury shows that a broad cross-section of American businesses received money, including gyms, hair salons, media outlets, law firms and construction companies.

Click here to view South Florida Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) recipients

About 8% of the money went to companies in the hard-hit food and hotel sectors, including chains like PF Chang’s. Non-profits were also eligible for the aid, and groups like the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America and the Girl Scouts of America received money, according to the data.

The data also showed that loans went to some private colleges and primary schools, too, including the elite Sidwell Friends School in Washington, DC, as well as several arts organizations. The New York City Ballet, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art were among those to receive relief.

Nonprofits associated with congressional groups also benefited. The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute both received loans between $350,000 and $1 million, according to the data.

Churches as well as affiliated schools and social services organizations across the country qualified. According to a CNN analysis of the data, at least 2,234 loans, totaling more than $812 million went to Catholic organizations, including the Archdiocese of Washington.

More than 4.8 million small businesses tapped more than $520 billion in potentially forgivable loans through the program — a central pillar of the $2.2 trillion emergency economic relief efforts deployed in March to keep the economy afloat as the pandemic led to mass shutdowns of businesses around the country.

The program ran into a series of issues in its earliest days given the speed of its creation. Between a rocky rollout, regularly shifting rules and guidance, and an initial round of funding that favored small businesses with long-term relationships with lenders, there was no shortage of criticism from businesses, banks and lawmakers alike.

Disclosures by a series of large public companies and well-known brands ranging from restaurants like Potbelly, Shake Shack and Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse to the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers, also raised pressure on the administration as it worked through the program’s earliest days — and largely drove the push to force the release of more information.

But those cases made up only a sliver of the overall borrowers in the program, leaving millions of loans in the dark — until Monday.

As it was designed, the program provides potentially forgivable loans to businesses with fewer than 500 employees in order to keep their workforce on payroll. The program was so critical at its inception that a first round of funding dried up in less than two weeks and had to be replenished. But interest in the program largely dried up in recent weeks, as shifting rules and the inability of borrowers to come back for a second loan limited the number of small businesses willing or able to go through the application process.

More than $130 billion in allocated funds remained unused at the time of the program’s closure Tuesday night — money that will serve as the basis for the next round of small business relief. Lawmakers also agreed last week to extend the application window for the current program, which closed on June 30, until August 8.

The release completes a reversal for the Trump administration, which for weeks has ignored requests from lawmakers and media organizations for loan-level data. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told a Senate committee last month that no data would be forthcoming, only to change course amid withering pressure.

The data released does not comprise the entire universe of loan data, however. The release captures borrower information for loans above $150,000 — which only makes up about 14% of the total lending in the program.

But the Treasury Department, Small Business Administration and lawmakers settled on that number over concerns that releasing loans under that threshold could create proprietary and privacy concerns for the smallest borrowers — sole proprietorships in particular.

House Democrats, however, rejected that decision and continued to pressure for access the access to all of the data, something Mnuchin and SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza said they will send up to Capitol Hill as soon as Monday.

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