- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 25, 2021

A top economic adviser to President Biden said Thursday that the White House is open to extending the deadline to apply for loans through the Paycheck Protection Program past March.

“If Congress wants to raise the possibility of extending the program, I think we’re certainly open to it and [we’ll] work with them to figure out what’s appropriate in that situation,” said Bharat Ramamurti, deputy director of the National Economic Council. “But at the moment, there is no plan in place to extend past March 31.”

Mr. Ramamurti was speaking at an event hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“That’s up to Congress — it’s not something that we in the administration can do by ourselves,” Mr. Ramamurti said.

Mr. Ramamurti said officials are closely monitoring the data to measure demand and the available funds left in the program.

Congress authorized another $284 billion for the program in the coronavirus relief package lawmakers passed late last year.

Approximately half of the new money is spoken for after the Small Business Administration reopened the program for applications in mid-January.

The $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package making its way through Congress now includes an additional $7 billion for PPP and expands eligibility for some nonprofit groups, though it doesn’t extend the end-of-March deadline to apply.

Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer at the Chamber of Commerce, said he hopes the program does get extended beyond March and that lawmakers should authorize additional money if necessary.

“Over the next two weeks we may have a high volume of loans, but because they’re less than 20 employees they’re going to be smaller [dollar] amounts,” Mr. Bradley said. “I do believe we will have resources left at the end of this two weeks.”

Mr. Biden announced several changes to the program this week, including a two-week period that began Wednesday in which only companies with fewer than 20 employees are eligible to apply.

Congress initially set up the program as part of the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package lawmakers passed and former President Trump signed into law last March.

It facilitates low-interest loans for businesses that are forgiven if the companies use a certain amount of the money to make payroll.

All told, more than 7 million loans collectively totaling more than $662 billion have been approved, according to the SBA.

Congress imposed new limits on which businesses are eligible for the funds in the latest round after major chains like Shake Shack and Ruth’s Chris applied for and initially received money last year.

Those companies and other major corporations were ultimately shamed into giving the money back or saying they wouldn’t accept any funds.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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