A federal judge on Thursday ordered the Small Business Administration to release details of coronavirus-related loans that would reveal information about businesses benefiting from the $ 717 billion loan. la is federally supported.
The judge requires the agency to disclose all exact names, addresses and loan amounts issued through the Paycheck Protection Program and the Disaster Emergency Loan Program. The decision came after dozens of news organizations filed a lawsuit, alleging that the agency failed to fulfill its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act.
The SBA previously only released summary and anonymous data for loans under $ 150,000 – about 4.5 million of the 5.2 million loans made – claiming they would violate the privacy of borrowers when disclosing their payroll size.
When the SBA denies a FOIA request by news agencies, it argues that disclosing information about a government loan would reveal business and personal information that should be kept confidential.
Federal judge James Boasberg dismissed those claims, saying in his ruling that “the significant public interest in clarifying the SBA’s PPP and EIDL program management significantly outweighs any benefits. limited private interest in not disclosing information ”. The judge downplayed the SBA’s claim that the size of the loan would reveal the company’s payroll, calling the claim a “fundamental error”.
He noted “the PPP loan application clearly communicates to potential borrowers – admitting in a disclaimer – that their name and loan amount will be ‘automatically disclosed’ as required. FOIA’s demand, “and criticized the agency for making” a series of arguments are essentially all down to the inevitable disputed that the agency doesn’t make sense as to what the loan application forms do. actually said. “
Agency spokesman Jim Billimoria said the SBA did not comment in an email to NBC News. The Justice Department, which represented the agency in the lawsuit, did not respond to a request for comment and whether the Trump administration plans to appeal the ruling.
“In response to the unprecedented challenges faced by small businesses this year, the Trump administration has provided more than three quarters of a trillion dollars in financial assistance to support affected small businesses. benefits, ”SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza said in a recent release. The data further reflects the special commitment the administration has made to support entrepreneurs in underserved communities. “
According to the agency, nearly 30% of PPP loans are made to low and middle income communities and more than 15% are approved for rural communities.
The government’s watchdog groups welcome the release and pledge to begin scrutinizing the data once it is released.
Jeremey Funk, a spokesman for Accountable.us, a radical monitoring group of government, told NBC News in an email: “From the very beginning, the Trump administration did everything in its power to hide PPP loan recipients. “As soon as the administration complies with the court order and releases all the data, we will review that data to see if there are more Trump administration officials and family members – and those with a relationship. Another good – getting loans before or not ”.
Data released at FOIA request was submitted by 11 news organizations, including NBC News, The Washington Post and The New York Times, and consolidated with a separate lawsuit filed by the Center for Public Integrity. , a DC-based investigative journalism non-profit organization filed.
News organizations exploited limited data released in July to reveal loans granted to people connected to the Trump administration and how black-owned businesses appear to be meeting. more difficult to receive SBA aid.