The U.S. Senate on Wednesday approved reforms to the popular paycheck protection program that will give small businesses greater flexibility in the use of coronavirus crisis funds.
The measure, which cleared the House of Representatives by 471 to 1, was passed unanimously by the Senate and is now heading to President Donald Trump’s office for signature.
New changes to PPP, established as a lifeline for small businesses struggling to stay afloat during coronavirus shutdowns, allow more flexibility in how relief loans are used and in the time granted companies to repay the funds.
“These changes will allow business owners to spend their P3 funds over a longer period of time, use a larger percentage of the loan for non-salary expenses (like rent) and more,” said Senator Angus King. , an independent who aligns with the Democrats. .
The two phases of the PPP provided a total of $ 669 billion in loans.
“The PPP is a bipartisan workers’ program that has been hugely successful in protecting 50 million employees and helping small business owners navigate this crisis,” said Senate Republican Marco Rubio, chairman of the committee. small businesses.
The bill would extend from eight weeks to 24 weeks the period during which funds must be spent for loans to be canceled, and also give businesses up to five years to repay any money owed on a loan, down from two years previously. .
Businesses could use a higher percentage of funds for rent and other approved non-salary expenses.
The bill would require 60 percent of a loan to be used on payroll, instead of 75 percent – a current stipulation that frustrates businesses like restaurants, which struggle with high overhead costs.
Congress, meanwhile, is working on a massive new measure to provide new economic relief to Americans and fund local pandemic response efforts.
But the $ 3 trillion bill, which was passed by the Democratic-led House, faces opposition from Republicans in the Senate who called it an exorbitant Liberal wishlist.