After weeks of mounting pressure from Congress, government oversight agencies, and outside groups, the Treasury and Small Business Administration agreed to disclose more detailed data on loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, including names of businesses who got funds. But while the disclosures would account for nearly 75% of the funds used for the program, it wouldn’t include the majority of borrowers.
The agencies announced late Friday that the names of companies and nonprofits who received loans over $150,000 will be released, along with other information including addresses, demographic data, and jobs supported by the businesses. The loan amounts would be disclosed in ranges, not individual amounts, from $150,000-350,000, $350,000-1 million, $1-2 million, $2-5 million, and $5-10 million. Loans in these ranges account for nearly 75% of the funds allocated thus far in the $660 billion program, per SBA data.
However, most of the recipients will remain unnamed based on the latest announcement, as over 86% of the roughly 4.6 million borrowers took loans under the $150,000 threshold.
The announcement comes after comments from Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin in front of Congress on June 10 sparked backlash, when he declared the names and loans amounts of borrowers would not be provided, saying they are “proprietary” and in some cases “confidential.” Following the secretary’s comments, members of Congress demanded the agencies hand over loan-specific data to improve transparency of the taxpayer program, also admonishing the SBA for failing to provide government watchdogs like the Government Accountability Office (GAO) with information it needed to oversee the program. Some House Democrats also called for banks who lent through the program to provide information about their processes and loans for the PPP.
The SBA and Treasury’s announcement is a significant move in providing more transparency for the embattled program. At present, the only known borrowers of the funds have been those who voluntarily announced they received loans or had to disclose the loans as part of securities filings if the company was public.
The decision to release dollar ranges for the loans (instead of releasing individual loan amounts for borrowers over $150,000) came as small businesses voiced concerns about how disclosing the loans, which are based on payroll data, might hurt competition. Secretary Mnuchin said in a statement “We are striking the appropriate balance of providing public transparency, while protecting the payroll and personal income information of small businesses, sole proprietors, and independent contractors.”
‘Far from full transparency’
However, for many, the policy shift is still insufficient. While those like Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, said the SBA and Treasury “took a step in the right direction” by announcing they will release information for nearly 75% of the funds used, “This is far from the full transparency that American taxpayers deserve,” Rep. Clyburn said in a statement Friday night. “Even when this data is released, Treasury and SBA will still be withholding the identity of nearly 4 million PPP recipients—that is more than 85% of all recipients, who collectively received more than $100 billion in taxpayer money.” Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) also noted the announcement was a “good start,” but said Democrats will “continue to push for maximum transparency from the Trump administration, especially when it comes to CARES Act funds.”
On Monday, House Ways and Means chairman Richard Neal (D-M.A.), Financial Services chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-C.A.), and Small Business chairwoman Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) said in a joint statement that the SBA and Treasury’s announcement was a “minimum level of transparency” that “still fall short of taxpayers’ expectations,” adding “only sharing data on disbursements above [$150,000] is utterly inadequate.”
Indeed, in lieu of names for loans under $150,000, only totals will be released, “aggregated by zip code, by industry, by business type, and by various demographic categories,” according to the SBA and Treasury announcement. The agencies did not specify when the data would be released. A spokesperson for the SBA did not immediately respond to Fortune‘s request for comment.
In the joint statement, the group doubled down, saying “Our demands still stand. We want SBA and Treasury to provide us with the names of all recipients of PPP loans, the dollar amount of all loans received, and the names of all applicants that did not receive PPP loans.”
Outside advocacy groups like the Center for Responsible Lending, which has actively called on Congress for transparency for the program, are “cautiously optimistic” about Friday’s announcement, Tom Feltner, executive vice president and director of research at CRL, told Fortune. However, he notes, “this does not solve the structural barriers that have left too many businesses out of this critical program.” Those barriers have, in part, prevented many businesses (especially Black-owned businesses) from accessing funds, based on early data.
Meanwhile, transparency concerns have also surfaced over whether members of Congress would disclose if they or companies associated with them got funds through the program. At least four members of Congress from both parties confirmed they had close ties to or have benefited from companies that received PPP loans, Politico first reported. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), for one, said last week she is proposing legislation to “require full disclosure of every member of Congress who may be benefiting from the [Paycheck Protection Program],” stating, “Members of Congress should disclose if they are taking taxpayer money,” she wrote on Twitter on June 16.
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