Cheryl W. Thompson

Cheryl W. Thompson is an investigative correspondent for NPR.

Prior to joining NPR in January 2019, she spent 22 years at The Washington Post, where she wrote extensively about law enforcement, political corruption and guns, and was a White House correspondent during Barack Obama's first term. Her investigative series that traced the guns used to kill more than 500 police officers in the U.S. earned her an Emmy, a National Headliner, an IRE, a White House News Photographers Association and other awards. In 2015, her reporting found that nearly one person a week died in the U.S. after being Tasered by police. The story was part of a year-long series on police shootings in the U.S. that won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting. In 2017, her examination of Howard University Hospital revealed myriad problems with the storied facility, including that it had the highest rate of death lawsuits per bed than the five other D.C. hospitals. Her project published in May 2018 investigated the unsolved serial murders of six black girls in the nation's capital nearly 50 years ago, and won an SPJ DC award for magazine feature writing. She has won numerous other awards, including two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists, and was named NABJ's Educator of the Year in 2017. She was part of the Washington Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 2002 for Sept. 11.

Thompson is a member of NABJ, teaches investigative reporting as an associate professor at George Washington University and serves as board president of Investigative Reporters and Editors, a 6,100-member organization whose mission is to improve the quality of investigative journalism.

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NOEL KING, HOST:

Inside the sprawling two-story tan and coral stucco building on New York Avenue in Northeast Washington, D.C., is a men's homeless shelter that once served as a halfway house run by the government.

It's a place that some 20 registered sex offenders call home — according to the city's sex offender registry. But at least one-third of them don't really live there, and D.C. authorities have no idea where they are.

When nurses and doctors across the country were struggling to treat coronavirus patients without enough protective gear, and the federal government was scrambling to find those supplies, Quedon Baul saw an opportunity.

His three-person company in McKinney, Texas, distributes medical supplies but didn't have much experience with face shields. Still, he landed two government contracts worth up to $20 million to deliver the personal protective equipment. He couldn't meet the first deadline, so he found subcontractors to do the job.

Trish Pugh started an Ohio trucking company with her husband in 2015. Even for a small business, it's small — they had two drivers, counting her husband, until they let one go because of the coronavirus crisis.

And so her company applied for a loan under the first, $349 billion round of the Paycheck Protection Program, which the federal government had set up to rescue small businesses.

It didn't go well.

Small and struggling. Those were the companies meant to be helped by the Paycheck Protection Program, which offers loans to small businesses clobbered by the shutdown of the economy.

The program has helped many such companies. But the law's fine print didn't close all loopholes. Large companies, we now know, got loans. And, now it appears that companies didn't have to be struggling to win a loan, either.

Banks handling the government's $349 billion loan program for small businesses made more than $10 billion in fees — even as tens of thousands of small businesses were shut out of the program, according to an analysis of financial records by NPR.

The banks took in the fees while processing loans that required less vetting than regular bank loans and had little risk for the banks, the records show. Taxpayers provided the money for the loans, which were guaranteed by the Small Business Administration.