AURORA | Much of the data the Small Business Administration provided to Congress about relief sent to businesses across the country was “grossly inaccurate,” according to analysts and lawmakers including Aurora Congressman Jason Crow.
“We started looking at the data and realized that CD6 had slightly more than 3% of loan numbers in Colorado. That didn’t seem right to me at all given the size of CD6,” Crow told the Sentinel.
The $660 billion Payroll Protection Program was designed to help businesses retain employees through the hardest months of the coronavirus pandemic. Now Congress is currently eyeing another round of the funding, but with mistaken data, Crow says moving forward is that much more difficult.
Data provided by the Small Business Administration also showed that only one business in CD6 received a PPP loan worth between $5 million and $10 million. In actuality the district had 19 loans in that range.
It took Crow’s office about a week to analyze the data in early July and realize that it was “extremely incorrect,” Crow said. Many of the discrepancies were a result of businesses being listed in neighboring districts.
CD6 businesses made up about 12% of the state’s recipients, not the SBA-reported 3%.
Similarly, the Washington Post reported problems with the data last month. Some companies that received PPP loans reported they retained more workers than they employ.
“And for more than 875,000 borrowers, the data shows that zero jobs were supported or no information is listed at all, according to the analysis,” according to the report.
The Trump administration said that through PPP 51 million jobs were “supported.”
But the data inaccuracy calls that claim into question.
Crow and a group of federal lawmakers have asked the SBA to correct the data, but so far that hasn’t happened. SBA Secretary Jovita Carranza and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in a hearing in July the data would be rectified.
“While erroneous data raises several questions for Congress, it also casts doubt on the full data set. We therefore urge the SBA to rectify these issues promptly to ensure the integrity of the data reported,” the members wrote in a letter to Carranza, specifically asking the agency to address questions about the process of assembling the data set.
The letter signers want more information on how the SBA attributed loans to congressional districts, how “jobs retained” figure for each business was determined and what measures are now being taken to ensure accurate data in the future.
Wrong data makes policy making really difficult, Crow said, especially as lawmakers are working on a next round of funding. The July House of Representative’s Committee on Small Business last month displayed a mutual agreement that another round of funding should be provided.
“Every time the SBA releases data we shouldn’t have to comb through it to check the work,” Crow said.
Crow said he’d like to see that funding target the nation’s small and most vulnerable businesses.
“These aren’t franchise that can open up again in 18 months,” he added. “If they close, they could be gone forever.”