Wyden, Merkley Call on Trump Administration To Stop Targeting Critical Health Care Providers Based On Political Ideology

Wyden, Merkley Call on Trump Administration To Stop Targeting Critical Health Care Providers Based On Political Ideology

Oregon senators join letter to SBA and Treasury Expressing Deep Concern With Conservative Media Reports That Planned Parenthood Affiliates Are Being Pressured To Return PPP Money

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley today called on federal officials to implement the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) provision of the bipartisan CARES Act as Congress intended and to stop targeting critical, safety-net health care providers like Planned Parenthood based on political ideology.

In a letter to Small Business Administration (SBA) Administrator Jovita Carranza and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the senators joined Democratic colleagues in expressing concerns about conservative media outlets reporting that SBA is calling on Planned Parenthood nonprofit affiliates to return PPP funding they received to help keep workers on payroll through the global pandemic.

“It is critical that the SBA implement the PPP as Congress directed, without ideological efforts to treat certain nonprofit organizations differently from others,” the senators wrote. “The SBA must administer the PPP program in a manner that is uniform and that does not target any entity or subset of entities for exclusion, especially if doing so is based on a political ideology, the services provided by that entity, or any other factor unrelated to the criteria established by law in the CARES Act.”

In the letter, the senators call out the move as a singling out of the health care providers amongst more than 4.3 million loans that have been issued under this program.

The senators express concern that the SBA’s apparent targeting echoes the Trump administration’s previous and longstanding campaign against reproductive health, noting that PPP was intended to assist a broad universe of nonprofit organizations that provide essential services, and call on SBA and Treasury to cease any efforts to pressure health care providers based on political motivations.

The entire letter led by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-MD), Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) is here and below.

A web version of this release is here.

Dear Administrator Carranza and Secretary Mnuchin:

We write to address confusion that has arisen in recent reporting regarding the eligibility of Planned Parenthood health centers for participation in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and express our deep concern that the Small Business Administration (SBA) appears to be engaged in targeted, ideologically-based attacks against critical safety-net health care providers.

As established under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the PPP was created specifically to ensure all 501(c)(3) nonprofits who meet the qualifications under the terms and conditions of the law would be eligible to receive these loans. Any terms or conditions applied, including the affiliation rule, were not aimed at targeting or excluding any specific entity or category of entities.

The PPP was created to respond directly to the ongoing severe consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic by providing “a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll.” The intent of the program is to provide cash flow assistance through 100 percent federally guaranteed loans to qualifying employers who maintain their payroll during this emergency. The law was drafted to provide eligibility for both for-profit and nonprofit organizations, as both types of organizations face severe economic challenges at this moment. The decision to fund PPP was based on a mutual and bipartisan consensus that it was important for this program to assist the broad universe of nonprofit organizations in this country, many of whom provide food assistance, health care services, child care, charitable services, and other essential functions that constitute a critical component of our social safety net. As such, independent Planned Parenthood 501(c)(3) organizations that have less than 500 employees and are compliant with the affiliation rule are eligible for PPP under the CARES Act. 

On May 19, conservative media outlets began to report that the SBA is “reaching out to each involved Planned Parenthood affiliate” which has received PPP funding in an effort to bully them into returning funds. The reporting, combined with the previous comments from a “senior Administration official” and this administration’s longstanding campaign against reproductive health generally and Planned Parenthood specifically, strongly suggests that Planned Parenthood is being arbitrarily singled out amongst over 4.3 million loans that have been issued under this program. 

It is critical that the SBA implement the PPP as Congress directed, without ideological efforts to treat certain nonprofit organizations differently from others. The SBA must administer the PPP program in a manner that is uniform and that does not target any entity or subset of entities for exclusion, especially if doing so is based on a political ideology, the services provided by that entity, or any other factor unrelated to the criteria established by law in the CARES Act. 

In light of these developments, we ask that the SBA stop ideologically-driven action against Planned Parenthood organizations through the unequal application of the affiliation rule in order to score political points for this administration by attacking nonprofit health care providers.

Sincerely,