- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 30, 2021

President Biden on Tuesday signed a two-month extension of the popular Paycheck Protection Program to give small businesses, especially those with fewer than 20 employees, more time to apply for forgivable loans.

In a brief Oval Office ceremony, Mr. Biden said roughly $70 billion is still available, and he hopes much of it goes to Hispanic- and Black-owned businesses that “got bypassed the first time around.”

“We’re pushing lenders to raise their game and provide more help,” the president said. “Nearly 90,000 business owners are still in line, and there’s money left. Without somebody signing this bill today, there are hundreds of thousands of people who [would] lose their jobs and small family businesses that might close forever.”

The legislation extends the deadline for PPP applications for two months, through May 31. It also gives the Small Business Administration another 30 days after that to process pending applications. The president called the measure a bipartisan accomplishment. It passed the Senate on Thursday by a vote of 92-7.

Sen. Ben Cardin, Maryland Democrat and chairman of the Senate Small Business Committee, said it’s vital that lawmakers “fine-tune PPP in the weeks ahead to make the program more fair and equitable.”

In December, Congress approved an additional $284.5 billion for the coronavirus aid program. The SBA has approved more than 3.5 million PPP loans in 2021, totaling nearly $212 billion.

Lawmakers said the program has sustained millions of small businesses and tens of millions of jobs during the pandemic.

“To date, Maine small employers have received nearly 43,000 forgivable loans to help them stay afloat and continue to pay their employees, and our legislation will allow more small businesses to access this lifeline,” said Sen. Susan M. Collins, Maine Republican. “I encourage eligible small businesses that have yet to apply for a first or second draw PPP loan to contact their financial institution as soon as possible.”

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, New Hampshire Democrat, said many small businesses are “continuing to struggle and need further help.”

“A new PPP loan can’t come soon enough for many of our hardest-hit small businesses,” she said.

Under the December law, businesses that employ 300 or fewer people and that experienced a revenue loss of 25% or more between comparable periods in 2019 and 2020 because of COVID-19 are eligible to apply for a second forgivable PPP loan.

Last year’s measure also expanded forgivable overhead expenses to include upgrades in facilities, supplier costs and purchases of personal protective equipment. About 100 business organizations endorsed the bill, including the National Federation of Independent Business and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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