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Statement of the Hon. Nydia M. Velazquez on Update on SBA’s Pandemic Response Programs

The COVID-19 pandemic sparked a once-in-a-lifetime crisis for American small businesses. The pandemic hit small firms the hardest, resulting in the most significant in business ownership in U.S. history. Facing an unprecedented wave of small business closures, Congress acted by creating economic relief programs to help businesses stay afloat through the crisis.

Since the passage of the CARES Act, the SBA has approved 4.2 million PPP loans worth $229 billion, 3.77 EIDL loans for approximately $195 billion, and has disbursed 5.8 million EIDL advances amounting to $20 billion.   This was a tall order for a small agency like SBA. It administered more aid during the COVID crisis than it had for all other disasters combined during its 67-year history.

I commend the SBA’s staff who have worked diligently around the clock, often 7 days a week for over a year now. Their dedication and work—while not perfect—have made a difference in the lives of millions of small business owners and workers. Now is the time to continue this Committee’s work to take a hard look at this effort and learn lessons for the future. I hope to examine the problems uncovered by our nation’s watchdogs and hear about SBA’s efforts to address them.

Since the inception of the pandemic, the Government Accountability Office and SBA’s Office of the Inspector General have combined to release 16 reports calling attention to SBA’s management of these programs. In fact, just last month, GAO added PPP and EIDL to its annual “High-Risk List,” identifying the economic relief program as being at high risk for waste, fraud, and abuse. These reports are sobering, and a call for action.

To that end, in the last Congress, I worked closely with then Ranking Member, Steve Chabot, and the members of this Committee to conduct robust oversight of the SBA.  We held hearings with the Administrator and other high levels officials in charge of the economic relief programs. We sent letters to the agency, placed numerous calls, and requested countless briefings. 

We were relentless in our pursuit of making sure these programs were working effectively for America’s small businesses. And it is my hope that in this Congress the Committee can put our partisan differences aside and work together to support the new Administration to deliver much needed economic assistance to America’s small businesses.

It’s important to note that the new Administration inherited a number of open recommendations from GAO and the IG. And, in the first couple of months in office, the Biden Administration has heeded those recommendations and made it a priority to restore program integrity in PPP and EIDL. 

The agency implemented a loan review plan, maximizing program integrity. In 2021, before issuing an SBA loan number, the agency began conducting front-end compliance checks on new First Draw PPP and Second Draw PPP applications using a modified version of the automated screening tool and information from the Department of Treasury Do Not Pay lists.

I applaud the new Administration for taking these concerns seriously and acting quickly to prevent emergency loans from going to bad actors. But as I always say, if something isn’t perfect, let’s see what we can do to make it better. 

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