SBA hid comms with Planned Parenthood amid GOP criticism over PPP loans
Mary Margaret Olohan, DCNF
- The Small Business Administration hid communications with Planned Parenthood regarding allegedly illegal COVID-19 loans, emails obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation show.
- The DCNF filed a Freedom of Information Act request in May 2020 for communications regarding Planned Parenthood’s Paycheck Protection Program loans after GOP lawmakers called for an investigation into the $80 million in loans given to Planned Parenthood affiliates.
- Lawmakers have argued that these affiliates obtained the loans illegally.
The Small Business Administration hid communications with Planned Parenthood regarding COVID-19 loans that Republicans say were illegal, emails obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation show.
The SBA released heavily redacted emails between the agency, lenders and Planned Parenthood affiliates in response to a Freedom of Information Act request the DCNF filed in May 2020. GOP lawmakers had previously demanded an investigation into $80 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, saying they were obtained illegally.
The SBA has repeatedly declined to comment on the Republicans’ claims.
“Americans have a right to know why their tax dollars went to Planned Parenthood’s abortion clinics instead of struggling small businesses, non-profits, and churches,” Sen. Tom Cotton told the DCNF.
“The Small Business Administration ought to disclose how Planned Parenthood affiliates gamed the system to illegally receive PPP loans—and then refer those affiliates to the Department of Justice for prosecution,” the Arkansas Republican continued.
SBA Dodges Addressing Redactions
The redacted communications appear to discuss Republican concerns over the PPP loans as well as a letter from GOP lawmakers demanding investigations into whether the loans were illegally distributed.
Due to the redactions, it is not clear what the SBA decided or how the SBA rationalized its decision. However, one May 18, 2020 email from an SBA employee to a Sun Trust email address said that the SBA did not have the ability to make a final determination on eligibility as “these decisions are the responsibility of the applicant and the lender.”
The email noted that an unnamed applicant met the needed 501(c)(3) criteria.
“If other eligibility criteria is met then the submission may be eligible,” the email said.
The DCNF pressed SBA on the few partially un-redacted communications from Planned Parenthood affiliates. One mostly redacted May 2020 email is from Planned Parenthood of Northern New England Director of Finance Jennifer Meyer.
The email’s subject line reads: “PPP funds in new account.” SBA redacted the content of the email, though Meyer’s name, email signature, and subject line are visible.
SBA spokeswoman Megan Moore told the DCNF that Meyer’s name was “inadvertently released” but that SBA cannot release the information of applicants who “did not ultimately receive a loan.”
Planned Parenthood of Northern New England did, however, receive a PPP loan of $2.72 million on April 5, 2020, federal records show. The affiliate did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
When the DCNF pressed Moore to explain the discrepancy, she acknowledged that her previous statement that Planned Parenthood of Northern New England did not receive a loan was false but said that prior discussions of the Planned Parenthood affiliate’s eligibility cannot be released.
The DCNF reminded Moore that the redacted communications were sent after the loan was issued, not before, but Moore insisted that “questions regarding eligibility may be raised at any time regardless of loan approval date.”
GOP Says Planned Parenthood Illegally Received PPP Loans
Planned Parenthood’s Action Fund previously issued a March 25 statement acknowledging that the CARES Act legislation gave SBA the power to exclude Planned Parenthood affiliates from receiving loans.
“The bill gives the Small Business Administration broad discretion to exclude Planned Parenthood affiliates and other non-profits serving people with low incomes and deny them benefits under the new small business loan program,” the statement said.
Despite this statement, Planned Parenthood confirmed in May 2020 that “some independent Planned Parenthood 501(c)(3) organizations applied for and were awarded loans under the eligibility rules established by the CARES Act and the Small Business Administration (SBA), which they met.”
Following this revelation, Republican lawmakers called for SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza to investigate how 37 Planned Parenthood affiliates received $80 million in loans.
“These circumstances require a full investigation in order to determine whether there was wrongdoing, and we urge that any such misconduct be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” the lawmakers said in a May 2020 letter.
Since May, SBA has repeatedly refused to discuss the matter to the DCNF. SBA repeatedly told the DCNF that it does not “comment on individual borrowers.”
In January, Republican lawmakers again called on SBA to investigate the PPP loans.
“Planned Parenthood affiliates are well aware that they are ineligible to receive PPP loans, on the basis of SBA’s letters and the frank admission of their political action committee,” senators wrote in the January letter to Carranza. “Their attempts to apply for PPP loans are naked attempts to defraud the United States government.”
Cotton and his fellow senators emphasized that Planned Parenthood employs approximately 16,000 people across the nation and “jealously exercises control over local affiliates, subjecting them to uniform bylaws, accreditation, frequent reviews, and mandates about what services they must provide to remain part of the Federation, such as onsite abortion.”
Since Planned Parenthood has too many employees to be eligible for Paycheck Protection Program loans, the organization’s local affiliates are also ineligible for the loans, the lawmakers wrote.
“Nonetheless, at least 37 Planned Parenthood affiliates illegally obtained more than $80 million in taxpayer funds during the initial rounds of PPP by self certifying their eligibility for the program,” the senators wrot in their letter. “In response, the SBA determined that these affiliates were ineligible to receive PPP loans and issued letters informing them of the consequences of false certifications of eligibility, including repayment of loans, loss of loan forgiveness, and other civil and criminal penalties.”
Planned Parenthood did not respond to requests for comment from the DCNF for this story.