The Senate passed a two-month extension of the Paycheck Protection Program on Thursday, sending the bill to the president’s desk. President Joe Biden is expected to sign the legislation.
The program, designed to help small businesses stay afloat during the pandemic with forgivable loans, was set to expire on March 31. The extension allows borrowers to apply for the loans through May 31 and the Small Business Administration will have until June 30 to process the loans. The House passed the extension last week.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) introduced an amendment to the House bill that would prohibit the Small Business Administration from prioritizing one applicant over another, but the Senate rejected it with a 48 to 52 vote.
The Biden administration made several changes to the program last month — some of which have caused confusion among borrowers.
Before introducing his amendment Rubio told Yahoo Finance that when the administration expands eligibility or makes changes beyond congressional intent, it politicizes the relief program that has wide bipartisan support.
“You create political flashpoints, that stigmatize programs and make it harder to get one done in the future and harder to extend them," said Rubio.
The Senate also voted down an amendment from Sen. John Kennedy (R., La.) that would prevent people convicted of a felony connected to a riot in the past two years from getting PPP loans.
If the Senate had tweaked the bill, the House would have had to take it up again. On the Senate floor, Sen. Ben Cardin (D., Md.) urged Senators not to change the bill, because the House is out of session and would be unlikely to take up the legislation before the program expired.
Senators have also raised concerns about a change the Biden administration made to make sole proprietors eligible for more money. The change is not retroactive, meaning some borrowers who had already received the loans got a lesser amount than people who applied after the change was made. Cardin agreed to work on retroactivity in the future, after the program is extended.
Jessica Smith is chief political correspondent for Yahoo Finance, based in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter at @JessicaASmith8.