U.S. Senator Rubio sees consensus for extending paycheck loan program

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – There appears to be agreement in Washington to give companies more time to utilize their coronavirus aid under the Paycheck Protection Program, the head of the U.S. Senate’s small business committee said on Wednesday.

Senator Marco Rubio told Fox News in an interview that he would like Congress to extend the current eight-week period that the program gives employers to make payroll with a quick, simple bill without further additions beyond that provision — a so-called clean bill.

“There’s actually unanimity up here for the most part,” he said. “Everybody agrees this crisis has evolved.”

“The only question now is can we pass it as clean bill,” he added, noting that he had proposed legislation to extend the time period for small companies to use the federal loans to 12 or 16 weeks and still seek forgiveness if used on payroll.

Any measure would have to pass the U.S. House of Representatives, which is controlled by Democrats who want more comprehensive action amid the pandemic and last week passed a $3 trillion coronavirus aid package that Senate Republicans, who control the upper chamber, quickly rejected.

On Tuesday, U.S. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy on said he could support giving borrowers up to 10 or 12 weeks to utilize their PPP loans. U.S. President Donald Trump, who would have to sign any measure into law, has also said he backs an extension.

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U.S. expected to revise PPP aid program for small businesses: WSJ

(Reuters) – The United States is expected to revise its aid program for small businesses to cope with the economic fallout of the coronavirus outbreak, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday.

The changes to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) are expected to include more flexibility to spend funds and more time to spend loans beyond the two months originally set, the newspaper reported, citing lawmakers.

Revisions to the program, launched in April, are expected to be implemented in two phases, the Journal reported.

Technical fixes in a new guideline on loan forgiveness from the Department of the Treasury and the Small Business Administration will be unveiled in the coming days, according to the report.

The program allows small businesses hurt by the pandemic to apply with lenders for a government-backed loan which can be forgiven provided at least 75% is spent on payroll costs.

However, a government watchdog said this month that the $660 billion program saddles borrowers with rules that undermine the intention of the U.S. Congress and fails to prioritize the right businesses.

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Democrats urge paycheck scheme coverage for community, minority lenders

(Reuters) – Top Democrats have urged the U.S. Treasury Department and the Small Business Administration (SBA) to expand opportunities for community development financial institutions (CDFIs) and minority depository institutions (MDIs) in the Paycheck Protection Program funding.

The call from the Democratic Party leaders, highlighted in a publicly released letter to the Treasury and SBA late on Sunday, asked for setting aside at least $10 billion in the next 48 hours for MDIs and CDFIs to make PPP loans amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“SBA and Treasury should use their administrative authority to create a special set-aside of at least $10 billion of PPP funds solely dedicated for MDIs and CDFIs,” the Democrats said in the letter.

It was written by, among others, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and U.S. Representative Maxine Waters, who chairs the House Financial Services Committee.

The letter also asked for greater transparency on the part of the processing of funds.

“The Administration’s process for requesting funds and making changes is backwards”, the lawmakers wrote. “Treasury and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) do not seem to be coordinating with SBA”.

The U.S. government notified lenders on Sunday that it will cap how much each bank can lend under the emergency loan program designed to keep workers on payrolls amid the coronavirus pandemic, hours ahead of the reopening of the lending program.

The shuttering of the U.S. economy due to the coronavirus pandemic will likely push the national unemployment rate to 16% or higher this month, President Donald Trump’s adviser, Kevin Hassett, said earlier on Sunday.

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