Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testifies before the House Small Business Committee at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Friday. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo
July 17 (UPI) -- Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Small Business Administrator Jovita Carranza found themselves on the defensive at times over the implementation of the Payroll Protection Program during the House Small Business Committee hearing Friday.
Democrats complained about why more funds from the program did not go to underserved communities. Maryland Rep. Kweisi Mfume said his district, the most diverse in the state, received less than 3% of PPP funds. He argued banks and other borrowing institutions with a history of ethnic discrimination were put in charge of doling out the loans.
"[Minority borrowers] think that the awarding of this program in some way represents Robin Hood in reverse," Mfume said. "The people who should really be getting some of this money on a fair basis are not getting it."
A study released Wednesday by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition on the PPP, criticized using banks as the conduits for the loans and that African Americans with similar or better financial profiles than whites were still less likely to be approved for the funds.
"I've had multiple calls with [Rep. Maxine Waters] and they have been very constructive and helpful," Mnuchin said. "We have to do a better job to make sure that all areas and all communities have access to these funds. To the extent that there are specific situations of discrimination, obviously we want to research that."
On the Republican side, North Carolina Rep. Dan Bishop praised Mnuchin and Carranza for their work but was upset that some affiliates of Planned Parenthood were awarded funds. In May, the SBA demanded that the affiliate return some $80 million in loans they received.
Carranza declined to get into specifics under questioning from Bishop about an investigation into how the affiliates were awarded the funds but admitted the cases were "under review."
Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., though, came to the defense of the affiliates, saying that they qualified for the loans since they operate independently from the national Planned Parenthood organization and singling them out was political.
Carranza again declined to answer questions on if SBA was investigating other nonprofits beyond the Planned Parenthood affiliates.