WASHINGTON – National Economic Council Chairman Larry Kudlow on Sunday said he backs Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin’s decision not to disclose the recipients of the more than $500 billion distributed through the Paycheck Protection Program that was created in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Congress approved more than $650 billion for the PPP loan program in the CARES Act and subsequent legislation. It was intended to help companies keep workers on their payroll through the shutdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which has driven unemployment to heights not seen since the Great Depression and sparked a recession while killing more than 115,000 people in the U.S.
Mnuchin told Congress at a hearing last week that the names of loan recipients and the amounts are “proprietary information.” Though he claimed the information is confidential, some lawmakers see the move as an attempt to dodge accountability for how the money is spent and said it flew in the face of Mnuchin’s previous promises of transparency.
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“I think when Secretary Mnuchin talked about transparency, he talked about the transparency of the process of making the evaluation for the loan and then the distribution of the loan,” Kudlow said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“Now, insofar as naming each and every company, I don’t think that promise was ever made,” he continued. “And I don’t think it’s necessary. I think what is necessary is to make sure that the legalities were observed, that the process of credit and lending was observed, and that people who could qualify will, in fact, get it.”
Many businesses, particularly smaller ones, struggled to obtain loans when the Small Business Administration first began distributing the funds, and several hundred publicly traded companies received loans despite their likely ability to get the money from private financial sources. Some big corporations said they would return their loans.
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“Given the many problems with the program, it is imperative American taxpayers know if the money is going where Congress intended – to the truly small and unbanked small business,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Friday. “The administration’s resistance to transparency is outrageous and only serves to raise further suspicions about how the funds are being distributed and who is actually benefiting.”
Like Mnuchin, Kudlow cited privacy concerns as a reason not to name the companies.
The senior White House economic adviser touted the overall success of the program, pointing to the speed at which the loans went out and citing the unexpectedly positive unemployment report, which said 2.5 million jobs were added in May.
“We have sent out about $510 billion,” Kudlow said. “It’s probably one of the most successful rescue packages in American history.”
Kudlow said the economy is in a “recovery phase,” with improving retail sales and a rising real estate market. He predicted “a good 20% economic growth” in the second half of this year and said “2021 is going to be another solid, solid year.”
Because of his optimism on the state of the economy, Kudlow opposed extending the $600 federal unemployment benefit that was augmenting what out of work Americans were getting from the states as part of the CARES Act, calling the weekly payments a “disincentive.”
“I mean, we’re paying people not to work,” Kudlow said, adding some were getting more than their normal salaries.
“I think people want to go back to work,” he said. “However, at the margin, incentives do matter. And so we have heard from business after business, industry after industry, and there’s already some evidence that this effect is taking place.”
Contributing: The Associated Press
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Larry Kudlow: PPP loan recipients should not be disclosed