OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson is working with a coalition of 24 attorneys general who are calling for key changes to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to ensure that funds are distributed fairly and equitably.
In a letter to Congressional leadership, the attorneys general assert that while the program has helped some small businesses and their employees, the PPP has suffered from a lack of transparency, technical savvy and functionality that has led to funds also being distributed to large, well-connected companies. As a result, the attorneys general argue that both the first and second rounds of funding have left many small businesses across the country underserved by PPP.
“The Paycheck Protection Program is meant to help small businesses and workers,” Ferguson said. “Congress must fix the loopholes that deprived small, community businesses of the ability to stay afloat and pay their employees. It is, after all, what the money was intended to do.”
The coalition is calling on Congress to adopt several measures to combat these issues before it allocates additional PPP funding. Those measures include:
Increasing Fair Access Funding for Small Businesses — Requiring the Small Business Administration (SBA) to provide stronger, explicit guidance to lenders to ensure funding goes to small businesses and not large, publicly traded companies, and adopt rules that prohibit lenders from giving preference to certain categories of customers over others, such as existing, larger customers or customers whose current debts could create conflicts of interest for the lender.
Ensuring Equitable Distribution — Allocating a portion of any future funding for the program exclusively for minority owned small businesses, and ensure funding is fairly distributed across metropolitan areas, and ensure that small banks and credit unions are fairly represented as lending sources involved in the program. In addition, the SBA should create a simple and straightforward process for “unbanked” or “lesser-banked” small businesses or those that do not wish to apply through their current financial institution to receive funding.
Better Communication and Transparency — Directing the SBA to provide more direct guidance to businesses during the application process, and require the SBA to disclose more granular data on the percentage of loans in various size categories, the number and amount of loans processed by each lender, and the geographic distribution of all loans by metropolitan statistical area, borrower demographics, including gender, race and ethnicity.
More Flexibility and Technical Support — Requiring longer time limits for businesses looking to rehire employees, around repayment and forgiveness requirements to businesses that allocate a smaller amount of revenue to salaries, and expanding qualifications for loan forgiveness, in addition to providing the SBA with greater funding to improve technical support and mandate a uniform, user-friendly process for lenders. Massachusetts is leading the coalition, which, in addition to Ferguson, includes attorneys general from California, Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia.