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Steven Mnuchin on Tuesday said large companies that sought coronavirus relief funds for small businesses should apologize to American taxpayers.

Mnuchin’s comments to The Wall Street Journal come after the last week asked publicly traded companies to return the money they received through the $660 billion Paycheck Protection Program.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Tuesday, April 21, 2src2src, in Washington. 

Treasury Secretary speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the , Tuesday, April 21, 2020, in
(AP)

The department said it was “unlikely that a public company with substantial market value and access to capital markets” needed government-backed relief funds.

Mnuchin warned that these companies could face criminal liability if they don’t return the money.

“Some of these companies should be apologizing,” he said. “The owners should be apologizing that they took this, not just giving the money back.”

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At least 13 public companies that received loans through the program have said they will return the money. Mnuchin reiterated that any companies applying for relief must demonstrate that the funds were necessary to keep them afloat.

approved more than $350 billion for the program late last month. But the funds were quickly depleted amid a rush of struggling companies applying for assistance.

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The government’s small business loan program was replenished with $310 billion and started taking applications again Monday.

Mnuchin told CNBC that any loan over $2 million will be accompanied by an audit by the Small Business Administration before there is loan forgiveness.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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