A federal judge has ordered the Trump Administration to reveal the PPP loan data that it’s seemingly trying to hide.
On Thursday, federal judge James Boasberg ordered the Small Business administration to release details on loans distributed to businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic. The information that was asked for would give insight into the businesses that were given $717 billion as loans from the government, writes NBC News’ Ben Popken and Andrew W. Lehren. The judge’s order demands the agency turn over all the names, addresses, and precise loan amounts that were issued through the Paycheck Protection Program and Emergency Injury Disaster Loan program.
This move comes after dozens of news organizations filed a lawsuit claiming that the agency was breaking the law by not having the PPP loan date publicly accessible under the Freedom of Information Act. So far, the SBA has only released summarized and anonymized data for PPP loans under $150,000, NBC News reports.
This would account for about 4.5 million of the 5.2 million in total loans that were created. The agency claims that releasing the information would violate borrowers’ privacy by revealing their payroll size. When the SBA denied the FOIA requests, it claimed that it would be revealing the business’s personal information that should allegedly remain private.
James rejected the claims, saying, “the significant public interest in shedding light on SBA’s administration of the PPP and EIDL program dramatically outweighs any limited private interest in nondisclosure.” He also called SBA’s payroll privacy claim “fundamentally flawed.” He highlighted that “the PPP loan application expressly notified potential borrowers — admittedly in a form disclaimer — that their names and loan amounts would be ’automatically released’ upon a FOIA request,” and criticized that agency for offering “a series of arguments that essentially all reduce to the unavailing contention that the agency did not mean what the loan-application forms actually said.”
There are no details on whether or not Trump plans to appeal the ruling. “In response to the unprecedented challenges faced by small businesses this year, the Trump administration provided more than three-quarters of a trillion dollars in financial assistance to support impacted small businesses,” SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza said in a recent release. “SBA lending data further reflects the extraordinary commitment this administration has made to supporting entrepreneurs in underserved communities.”