BOSTON – When the Small Business Administration’s payroll protection program (PPP) borrower list became public last week, 25 surveys dug into local data. Discrepancies quickly arose.
Why would a small clothing store with two employees need a government guaranteed loan of five to ten million dollars to cover a few weeks of payroll? Likewise, why would a sole proprietor in Jamaica Plain with just two employees need more than two million dollars in taxpayer dollars?
25 Investigations’ Ted Daniel was federal PPP report since April. The program was designed as a safety net to keep small businesses afloat during the pandemic. But the latest figures released by the SBA just didn’t match, so we went looking for answers. We have found business owners as bewildered by the numbers as we are.
Our first stop was at Longmeadow. We wanted to ask the owner of Added Attractions how she used the millions of dollars the SBA claims to have made. After all, loan data shows the company got between $ 5 million and $ 10 million in P3s to help keep just two jobs during the pandemic. When we arrived, camera rotating, we were informed that the owner was not that day. On our way out, a friend of the owner contacted us and informed us that the store had received PPP money, but the loan amount released was a long way off. In fact, the friend claimed, the loan was for less than $ 10,000.
We also visited a dentist in North Grafton. Monica Rao DMD’s office also told us that the information the SBA released about their loan was wrong. Official data suggests the company has secured between $ 5 million and $ 10 million to stay afloat during the state-mandated COVID-19 shutdown.
Documents provided by the owner’s husband show that the business received a total of $ 96,000 for two branches.
In an email, her husband and chief commercial officer told 25 Investigates: “I am surprised that the SBA publishes incorrect information and does not verify the validity of the data it provides.”
The SBA data comes from the banks that process the loans. According to the spreadsheet, 146 Massachusetts businesses received between $ 5 million and $ 10 million in loans, and more than 18,000 businesses received $ 150,000 or more.
We also found errors involving JP Massage at Jamaica Plain. Official data shows the company has received between $ 1 million and $ 2 million in aid. But when we contacted the owner’s financial institution, the bank confirmed the loan amount at $ 17,400.
“I think these are terrible mistakes… and could jeopardize this person’s business,” said Paul Miller, a chartered accountant who has worked on hundreds of PPP loan applications for clients.
Miller says the loan program has been a lifeline for struggling businesses during the pandemic, but the errors we found raise questions about accounting. Trillions of taxpayer dollars are at stake.
If a borrower has spent the majority of the loan on their payroll, the loan can be turned into a grant, which means it doesn’t have to be repaid.
“In order for them to publish them, they should have loan documents that support this type of number,” Miller said. “So it is already a glaring thing to do, because the clients you refer to should have signed for five or 10 million, which we know would be next to impossible.”
The SBA database lists all PPP loans across the country. While working on this report, Colorado Sun reporter Tamara Chuang was tracking similar gaps in her condition.
“There was a dollar loan here in Colorado, and the SBA director said it was probably a typo,” Chuang told 25 Investigates. “I was talking to a banker this morning. I tell him the SBA accuses lenders of bad information. And he’s like, well, it goes both ways.
Richard Stocks tracks financial crimes for Symphony Ayasdi AI, a financial technology company in California. He says accounting errors, typos and even fraud will be corrected when the loans mature. And with $ 521 billion at stake, there will be a math. Unfortunately, he says, small businesses already struggling might be the ones in the middle.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of ‘he said, she said’ between the SBA and the financial industry. I anticipate back-and-forth lawsuits between financial institutions and borrowers and the SBA, ”Stocks added. “I think the government will take a hit. I think financial institutions are not fully prepared for what lies ahead. “
25 Investigators asked the SBA for a camera interview or official statement about the discrepancies we found. An SBA spokesperson did not respond to this request.
PPP loans are always available. The deadline has been extended to August 8.
You can view the entire database as published by the Federal Government below.
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