June 21, 2021

Yellen under fire for failing to testify about COVID relief funding on Capitol Hill

Brian Brenberg on tax hikes, government spending Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is under fire for…

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is under fire for missing an April deadline to testify before the House and Senate Small Business Committees, even though she is required to do so under the coronavirus relief bill law passed by Congress in December. 

The $900 billion stimulus bill, which former President Donald Trump signed into law on Dec. 27, 2020, stipulates that the Treasury secretary and Small Business Administration administrator must testify before the House Small Business Committee and the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship no later than “120 days after the date of the enactment of this act.”

Although the 120-day deadline passed on April 26, 2021, Yellen and SBA Administrator Isabella Guzman have not appeared before either committee – to the frustration of some of its members.

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Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, the House committee’s ranking member, said in a statement to FOX Business that the SBA and Treasury Department have a “duty to be transparent” about the administration’s relief efforts, particularly when the “nation’s hardest-hit small businesses are working tirelessly to get back on their feet.”

“An update from the Biden administration on our most essential small business relief programs is past due,” Luetkemeyer, R-Mo., said. “Small businesses deserve information, and Secretary Yellen and Administrator Guzman must testify before our committee.”

A source familiar with the matter told FOX Business that Deputy Treasury of the Secretary Wally Adeyemo – who oversees an umbrella office in charge of consolidating and administering the various relief programs established this year and last – was slated to testify before the House Small Business Committee, but the representatives ultimately canceled.

Yellen has at least eight scheduled hearings over the course of May, a Treasury official said. 

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In a Thursday letter to Yellen, Sen. Rand Paul, the ranking member of the Senate Small Business Committee, asked her to schedule a date to testify sometime in May or June. Paul, R-Ky., requested that she respond by May 7. 

“I am committed to working with you to identify a mutually agreeable date for you to fulfill your obligation to appear before the committee,” Paul wrote. “Unfortunately, previous efforts to work with your department to schedule your testimony have been unsuccessful to date.”

The SBA declined to comment. A spokesperson for Rep. Nydia Velázquez, the chair of the House Small Business Committee, did not respond to a request for comment.

The December stimulus bill extended several key relief programs designed to keep small businesses afloat during the pandemic, including the Paycheck Protection Program. The PPP exhausted its funding on Tuesday and stopped accepting most new applications, four weeks before it was slated to end, casting a new light on Yellen’s lack of testimony.

Just a fraction of the $292 billion that Congress allocated to the rescue fund this year is left – most of which is reserved for financial lenders that serve underserved communities, according to the SBA. Those lenders will be allowed to process qualifying applications until the remaining money runs out. 

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The PPP distributed roughly $780.4 billion in forgivable loans to some 10.78 million businesses, according to government data.