On Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., the chairman of the U.S. Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, spoke on the Senate floor about the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the need for oversight.
Rubio said the following:
“This is the first time I’ve had a chance to speak on the floor about the Paycheck Protection Program since it passed. I want to say this unequivocally, that — despite everything you read out there — in my mind, I don’t think there’s any question that by far this has been the most successful part of the CARES Act.
“To put it in perspective, this is something we worked on in a bipartisan way. In less than a week it was crafted. Then the agencies had less than six days to put together the rules. Until Friday, April 3rd, no bank in America had ever made a PPP loan. No one had ever applied for one. And the SBA never approved one. It was a massive program. If we look at the results, they’re stunning.
“Now, does the program have problems? Sure. I think any time that you create something that spends $500 – $600 billion dollars, that reaches over 50 percent of the U.S. economy and is put together so quickly, there are going to be unintended consequences, and I’ll come back to that point in a moment. But I think the biggest problem that this program has had since the very beginning, which created some of these tensions that we’ve read about in the press is that it was underfunded. From the very beginning. The demand is greater than the supply, even potentially right now after the second round.
“You know, we’ve heard the reports about publicly traded companies, we all know how we feel about that, and I’m glad that that’s being addressed right now. I also want to put it in perspective. They have taken 0.35 percent of the funds that were approved. Not 35 percent, not 3.5 percent — 0.35 percent of the money that’s been lent. So it’s not like they took half the money, which is the perception that’s been created out there in some of the coverage. Meanwhile, that means the rest of it went to somebody who is not publicly traded, so that’s an extraordinary achievement nonetheless and I’m glad that’s being looked at.
“Now, on transparency … Myself — Friday, Saturday — I was really upset that we weren’t getting those numbers. And the reason why I want the numbers is (A) we want to make sure this program that we put our name on and worked hard on — all of us have — is reaching its intended audience. (B) The points that were made here as well that, to the extent that changes have to be made in any future funding, we want to make sure that that future funding is targeted in the right way. And so I was as upset as anybody. And I hope that the agencies are watching these proceedings now and understanding why it’s so important that our members have accurate, detailed and regular information about how this program is rolling out.
“What we do know when they finally released numbers on Saturday is that in Round Two, the average loan went from $206,000 in Round One to $76,000 in Round Two. That’s a stunning drop which tells you that it’s reaching smaller businesses. We do know that 72 percent of the loans made in Round Two were under $50,000, and that 85 percent were under $100,000. We do know that 4,400 of the 5,400 lenders in the program have less than $1 billion in assets. So, we know that it’s reaching the regional banks, the smaller banks, the credit unions.
“Now, the reason why doing what is being proposed here now is problematic is twofold. The first is that some of the demographic data that’s being asked is not on the application. So it’s not even clear that they would be able to produce that for us unless they stopped the process, created a new application, and then began to process as well. Now, we will know the answer to that question in the forgiveness phase. I do believe that in the forgiveness phase, it’s very valid to ask that that information on demographics be included in the forgiveness application that people are going to have to file.
“So I think the best path forward is, in my view, not to pass something like this today — although something like this may be necessary if we can’t get these numbers — but let’s find out first and foremost, what data points do they have? What data points does the SBA have at their disposal? And see if we can get them to do what they should be doing already, which is producing it on a regular basis.
“What I don’t want to see is an already overburdened agency that’s small to begin with and is struggling to get all these programs running, having to pull people off getting people money to fill out this information. And we have to understand in the end it isn’t the Administrator or the Treasury Secretary that is going to have to write these things up and collect it. It’s going to be people that in many cases are working from home, living in this region under all the restrictions that are there. I just think this agency is already struggling to manage this massive program, and to add an additional requirement without thinking it through would have unintended consequences, potentially slowing the program down.
“So it’s my view that we’re going to find out all of this information. And we’re going to know it in a timely fashion so we can do something about it. I do not believe that passing this today is the right approach, given the fact that we first need to know what data they have at their disposal before we can ask them to produce it. Otherwise, I fear they’re going to stop or going to slow down and real businesses, small businesses and not for profits are going to be delayed.”