The Senate passed an unexpected extension of the Paycheck Protection Program Tuesday night, just a few hours before the $660 billion effort to aid small businesses was scheduled to cease receiving applications. The House approved the last-minute bill Wednesday, and if President Trump signs it as expected business owners will have until August 8 to apply for forgivable loans through the program.
The extension itself may not have a significant effect on participation in the loan program, however. While the PPP has approved about $520 billion in loans for nearly 5 million small businesses so far, another $130 billion has gone unclaimed, and applications have slowed to a trickle in the last few weeks.
One problem for the program has been its requirement that the majority of the borrowed funds be used for payroll expenses in order for the loans to be converted to grants, a condition many small business owners such as restaurateurs fear they may not be able to satisfy.
While the extension, which required the agreement of all 100 senators, may not have a significant effect in the short run, it does signal that lawmakers are serious about providing more aid for small businesses. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said this week that he was looking into the possibility of reprogramming any remaining PPP funds to help businesses in other ways. Whatever the mechanism, senators made it clear that they want to include new federal aid for small businesses in the next stimulus package, which could come up for a vote later this month.