Inspector general confirms that Sept. 11 loan recipients weren’t hurt by attacks |

Inspector general confirms that Sept. 11 loan recipients weren’t hurt by attacks

WASHINGTON – Most companies interviewed about the government-backed Sept. 11 loans they received have told investigators they weren’t hurt by the suicide attacks and didn’t know they were getting terrorism assistance, an internal government investigation found.The Small Business Administration’s inspector general also reported Wednesday that lenders who doled out billions of dollars in such loans failed – 85 percent of the time – to document that recipients were actually hurt by the terrorism attacks and therefore eligible for the federal aid.The IG, the agency’s internal watchdog, concluded only nine loan recipients in the 59 cases sampled appeared to be qualified for the special disaster loans. The report said SBA officials told lenders they would not be questioned on how they gave out money.”We believe these communications were intended to, and did, send a message to lenders that the agency would not question lender eligibility determinations,” the inspector general reported.The investigative report substantiates key findings of an Associated Press story in September that found similar problems with the SBA’s Supplementary Terrorist Activity Relief (STAR) program.The AP found that terrorism recovery loans went to businesses including a South Dakota radio station, a Virgin Islands perfume shop, a Utah dog boutique, and more than 100 Dunkin’ Donuts and Subway sandwich shops in various locations.Meanwhile, small businesses near Ground Zero in New York couldn’t get the assistance they desperately sought.SBA Administrator Hector Barreto put the best face on the findings, saying the audit did not find that loan recipients were unqualified for the program, although he did note that lender documentation could have been better.His statement, however, was contradicted by Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, chairwoman of the Senate committee that oversees the Small Business Administration.”These initial findings are troubling and the committee … will continue with its own investigation of the STAR program to get at the truth and inform Congress for the future,” she said.Snowe, who heads the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, said if abuses are discovered, “many questions must be answered by the parties involved, beginning with: How and why was this allowed to happen?”The IG’s report found:-Only 2 of 42 borrowers interviewed were aware they had obtained a STAR loan.-In cases where eligibility could not be established, 25 of 34 borrowers interviewed said they were not adversely affected by the terrorist attacks.-Thirty-six of 42 borrowers questioned said they were not asked, or could not recall if they were asked, about the impact of the attacks on their businesses.The report said IG investigators were told by lenders that their participation originally was low because of unclear requirements.SBA officials then embarked on a vigorous marketing campaign, and lenders interpreted their remarks to mean “that every small business could claim it was somehow impacted by the attacks, and therefore, eligible to receive a STAR loan,” the report said.

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