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According to a report by Politico this morning, the Trump administration is signaling that it may not release the names of the businesses that have received a portion of the $500 billion-plus in coronavirus (COVID-19) bailout funds distributed through the Small Business Association’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin called the information “confidential” and “proprietary.”
In response, Arizona PIRG’s Tax and Budget advocate R.J. Cross released the following statement:
“The PPP is a unique, massive program designed to meet an unprecedented crisis. But after some of the first rounds of funding went to large entities such as the Los Angeles Lakers, Americans have reason to wonder how well the PPP is helping small businesses. That track record does not assure us, and today’s revelation that the government may never tell the public how this $500 billion is being spent is unsettling at best.
The bailout is taxpayer money. Secretary Mnuchin says the information about where it goes is ‘proprietary.’ But the transparency taxpayers are asking for does not require the release of Coca-Cola’s secret formula. We are just asking who has gotten billions of our taxpayer dollars, and if that money has been spent well. That is very much our business.
The experience with round 1 of the PPP shows how easy it can be for big business to muscle its way to the front of the line for government bailouts. Only robust transparency can ensure the money isn’t going to big companies and leaving small businesses wondering how they will survive, frustrating the purpose of the program.
We know corruption and fraud happen in places where the public is least likely and able to look: the details, the footnotes, the back rooms hidden away from the public. All money lent and spent must be disclosed online to the public who’s footing the bill. How else can we know the program achieved its aims? How else can we ensure these billions did the most good possible in a crisis? How else can we be sure this historic program doesn’t become a vehicle for corruption?
The biggest bailout in U.S. history demands the most transparency in U.S. history. Nothing could be clearer than that.”
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