House Extends Small-Business Rescue, With $93 Billion Still Left

The U.S. House approved a two-month extension of a popular U.S. small-business rescue program that still has almost $93 billion left to distribute, giving companies until the end of May to apply for the forgivable loans.

The Paycheck Protection Program was initially set up a year ago as lockdowns stemming from the coronavirus paralyzed the American economy. Lawmakers expanded and extended it as the Covid-19 crisis continued.

The House voted 415-3 on a bill extending the PPP for two months from its current expiration date of March 31. The Senate is expected to also approve it, with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer saying Tuesday Democrats “want it to pass as quickly as possible.”

The Small Business Administration had approved nearly 7.6 million loans worth more than $687 billion as of March 7. About $92.5 billion remains to be lent.

Firms can apply for PPP loans that can convert into grants if the owners spend the money on approved costs, such as worker salaries. Business groups and lenders had urged Congress to extend the deadline to give small businesses more time to apply for the money.

Fast Track

Senate Small Business Committee Chairman Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, said that the chamber would try to advance the extension bill with a fast-tracked procedure used for bipartisan, agreed-upon legislation, by seeking unanimous consent.

A new round of PPP lending opened up in January after Congress approved more funding in December. Lawmakers then approved an additional $7.25 billion for the program in the latest $1.9 trillion stimulus bill that President Joe Biden signed into law earlier this month. The law also expanded eligibility for some non-profit groups and online publishers.

The latest round allows some businesses to apply for a second loan if they used up their first one, met requirements regarding number of employees and could demonstrate a decline in revenue. However, new forms and exclusive access periods for some small businesses meant that the rollout of the additional funding was slow and some applicants waited for weeks for their financing to be processed.

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