Clyburn says panel will look at how publicly traded companies got PPP loans

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) in a weekend interview said a new panel overseeing the federal response to the coronavirus will investigate how publicly traded companies won loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

The PPP, set up under the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill, was authorized to provide forgivable loans to small businesses struggling to stay afloat amid the pandemic. 

But the program’s initial $350 billion in funding was quickly depleted as larger companies such as Shake Shake, Potbelly and Ruth’s Chris were awarded loans. 

While some of the companies have returned the funding, Clyburn, the top Democrat on the Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis, argued his panel’s oversight is needed to restore confidence in the government. 

“The legislative branch has a role to play in oversight,” Clyburn told The State. “I would hope that this committee will function with that in mind. … We are there to ensure the American people maintain confidence in their government. We need that now more than ever in my lifetime.”

Clyburn said the panel will also monitor how key provisions in the relief bills are implemented, including whether states are properly using the funding allocated for broadening access to mail-in voting.

He also sees potential for the panel to serve in an advisory role for the federal government and health officials.

Clyburn told The State that the committee could be beneficial in helping advise on a plan to address minority communities being disproportionately affected by COVID-19, and said the expansion of broadband in certain areas of the country could help improve health care and education efforts amid the crisis. 

“This committee needs to be up and running soon to inform the Congress as to how to prepare itself for what may be a second outbreak in the fall,” he said. “If there is a second outbreak in the fall, what is going to happen to our health care delivery system? Will we have done anything to improve that? I would say there are two things we can do. Number one, you ought to have mobile testing. Number two, we ought to have 100 percent coverage of broadband.”

The select committee — which was authorized in a vote last week with no GOP support — has been blasted by Republicans, who argue there are already oversight authorities in place and that the panel is politically motivated. 

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) decision to tap Clyburn as the top Democrat on the panel has also faced strong pushback from Republicans, with Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) repeatedly slamming the South Carolina Democrat’s comments on a caucus call last month during which he reportedly told members of his party that “this is a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision.” 

Clyburn shot down accusations that the establishment of the committee was politically motivated, arguing it is a necessary step to combat fraud and abuse. 

“If it were a Democrat sitting in the White House, I would think that this committee will still need to function because it’s not about who is sitting in the White House. It’s about how this program is being implemented,” he told the publication.

Tags Coronavirus Kevin McCarthy Nancy Pelosi Paycheck Protection Program

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