WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden warned on Tuesday he would scrutinize any “big company or political insider” who received federal stimulus money they were not supposed to get from the government’s trillion-dollar relief package.
The presumptive Democratic nominee took aim at Republican President Donald Trump’s administration’s handling of the stimulus funds after a number of large publicly traded companies with plenty of cash on hand were able to tap into money aimed at helping small businesses ride out the coronavirus lockdown.
“Let me issue a warning right now to anyone who participates in the corrupt giveaways of President Trump and his administration,” Biden said in a video statement.
Biden said that, if elected, he would appoint an inspector general “to review every stimulus loan given to any big company or political insider. Every single one.”
The inspector general would have the authority to refer potential wrongdoing by a company or executive to the Justice Department, he said.
Since early March, Congress has passed bills allocating around $3 trillion to combat the pandemic, including taxpayer money for individuals and companies to blunt an economic impact that includes an unemployment rate to 14.7% in April.
“Any dollar that goes to someone that does not merit it under the law, any dollar taken corruptly, we will find it, we will come get it and we will punish the wrongdoers,” Biden said.
“That should start tomorrow. But if it doesn’t, it will start on January 20, 2021.”
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has said he was shocked that some large companies had taken the loans, and said the certifications had been put in the small-business loan application forms to force borrowers to read the requirements.
A Biden campaign strategy document seen by Reuters last week said Trump’s coronavirus stimulus package contained “the largest corporate bailout in American history” and “cronyism” rigged in favour of big businesses, the wealthy, and the financial sector.
The campaign cited media reports and research suggesting that small businesses with ties to the administration received aid, that banks may be prioritising wealthy clients when making loans under the emergency program and that Democratic-led states that did not support Trump’s re-election might not be getting sufficient support.
Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Steve Orlofsky