Although Mr. Mnuchin promised on Twitter on Monday to work with lawmakers to “strike the appropriate balance for proper oversight of #ppploans and appropriate protection of small business information,” Treasury Department lawyers issued an opinion that would further curtail oversight of more than $1 trillion in aid, according to the letter sent to lawmakers last week, whose contents were first reported by The Washington Post.
Michael E. Horowitz, the acting chairman of the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, and Robert A. Westbrooks, the committee’s executive director, warned that the Treasury lawyers’ interpretation would “present potentially significant transparency and oversight issues.” The section singled out included funds for tribal governments already embroiled in a series of lawsuits, aid for states, nearly $500 billion for corporations, funds for aviation companies and the Paycheck Protection Program.
The Paycheck Protection Program and its beneficiaries have received particular scrutiny from lawmakers amid reports that wealthier corporations and businesses benefited from the program, with several restaurant chains, some private schools and at least one professional basketball team returning the money they received.
Mr. Mnuchin’s declaration that the names and amounts of the Paycheck Protection Program loans were proprietary and confidential sparked further backlash from lawmakers, particularly after his March vow of “full transparency.” Instead, during Senate testimony, he suggested that some of that information could be made available to the Government Accountability Office for oversight purposes.
Mr. Mnuchin and Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, discussed on Monday how to make the information public and whether to implement a threshold loan amount for disclosure.
Mr. Rubio argued that some loans should be exempt from full disclosure. “There’s a lot of smaller-end businesses that are concerned about what that might reveal about their business model,” he said.
“There will be disclosure — it’s just a question of what is the differentiation between a $100,000 loan and a $5 million loan,” he said, adding: “If you have a big loan, there’s no avoiding it. We’re going to need to know who you are.”