June 18, 2020
Multiple members of Congress who received Small Business Administration CARES Act loans also voted against the disclosure of loan information, raising questions around whether well connected companies are getting more access to funds than others. The $2 trillion aid package allotted over $360 billion for the SBA to provide financial relief to small businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) programs.
The lack of disclosure of loan program recipients is a growing issue as members of Congress are found to have ties to companies receiving assistance. At least four members of Congress hold financial stakes in companies that received assistance from those programs, sparking concerns around special treatment and potential conflicts of interest. Importantly, the SBA had been prohibited from providing economic assistance to agribusiness because of USDA’s role in regulation and providing access to credit. However, the CARES Act gave unprecedented access to loans for agribusiness, putting Representative Vicky Hartzler’s funding for agribusiness interests under particular scrutiny. Finally, two of the members who received loans also voted against a provision to require disclosure of loan recipients, and have also refused to disclose the amounts of the loans received by businesses connected to them.
CREW has requested SBA’s PPP and EIDL program records on a number of companies members of Congress have reported financial interests in, including Roger Williams Chrysler Dodge Jeep, Carlton Hotel Properties, and Beyer Automotive Group.
The requested records will reveal if loan amounts were in line with program averages and whether members of Congress received any form of special treatment. Previously, CREW sent a letter urging SBA to disclose loan recipient data. Now, with some members of Congress vying to keep loan data secret and already frighteningly limited oversight on coronavirus relief funds, constituents deserve to know whether their members of Congress are receiving taxpayer dollars for their businesses.
Disclosure: On May 4, CREW received a loan under the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program. The loan will help CREW continue fighting for a more just and ethical government, which is now more critical than ever. With American taxpayers footing the bill, transparency is crucial when it comes to where assistance related to the coronavirus pandemic is going.